We are growing up

End of Life Choices California is growing up.

We launched  in February 2019 as  just the spark of an idea.  An idea full of purpose, caring, enthusiasm and commitment.  The four of us came together to create a new nonprofit dedicated to providing accurate information and personal support to the seriously and terminally ill people of California.  We decided to name our organization End of Life Choices California to represent choice at the end-of-life. And as you will see, we have already come a long way.

On our way!

Since early February, we filed the appropriate papers with the State of California to form a non-profit organization. We built a resource-rich website that is very user friendly and welcoming. We are writing a regular blog, and getting new subscribers every day (subscribe here.) We have a Facebook page with more than 100 “likes” (like us!). We are preparing funding proposals and developing marketing and fundraising plans. We have formed two excellent teams to help guide us: our esteemed Board of Directors and a carefully chosen Advisory Committee. Our founding directors formed an Organizational Management Team which currently manages our day-to-day operations and volunteers. Our strategic plan includes continuing to develop a statewide service model and hiring an Executive Director, Program Manager, and Development Officer over the next 12-24 months.

First Training

We held our first Client Advocate Volunteer training in Los Angeles in early June and are holding our second Client Advocate Volunteer training in San Francisco on August 18, with another southern California training planned later in the Fall. See all our events here. Be sure to let us know if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer.

We have been doing all of this on faith, commitment and a deep sense of knowing we are doing the right thing: meeting the needs of Californians facing end of life decisions with factual, legal, and compassionate information and personal support.  We have fielded dozens of phone calls and provided support to a number of dying clients. We have already made at least a dozen presentations to community groups, senior centers, and hospices. We want to do more! Please feel free to share your ideas with us and also share about us to your friends and colleagues who might be interested in any service we can provide, or who may be looking for a speaker. Forwarding this blog post is a great way to do that.

Finally 501(c)(3)

Lastly, and importantly, we are happy to report that we recently received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service congratulating EOLCCA on being recognized as a tax-exempt non-profit public charity organized under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3), back-dated to the day we incorporated in February, 2019. This means that if you want to help us keep growing by giving us a gift, those gifts may now qualify as a charitable deduction on your tax return.

We are thrilled that our early work has laid the groundwork for this growing organization that will make a difference in peoples’ lives.  We are truly growing up.  And, yes there’s more! We are honored to have received our first major donor gift of $10,000!

It is so gratifying to know that others believe in our mission as much as we do.

So no more training wheels for us.  We are moving forward purposefully, step-by-step, knowing we are doing something truly worthwhile for California, and trusting you will help. Together, we can advance public understanding and compassion for those making thoughtful decisions about managing terminal illness and their dying, and help bring peace and comfort to the loved ones who care about them. There is a social movement and change happening that is improving end of life choices and decision-making.  We are proud to be part of it.

If you would like to help us continue to grow our services and client support program, please visit EOLCCA  to make a donation online, or send a check to EOLCCA, 530 S Sierra Ave #30, Solana Beach, CA 92075.

With gratitude for your continuing support,

Judy, Karen, Claudia & Lynne
Founding Directors

 

Upcoming San Francisco Volunteer Training Aug. 18

Hello Northern Californians!

In case you haven’t already heard, we want you to know about an upcoming fabulous opportunity.  We have scheduled our first northern California volunteer training in San Francisco for Sunday, August 18 from 10 am – 4 pm (includes lunch).  We still have four seats left to fill and would love anyone interested to join us!

Information About our Volunteer Teams

Client Advocate Volunteers provide the following services:

  • Thoroughly explain all the different options for dying well and how to achieve them; including stopping life-preserving medical treatments, seeking palliative care, entering hospice, voluntary stopping eating and drinking with the support of hospice, palliative sedation, and medical aid in dying.
  • Help people navigate through their dying process, from beginning to end. Sometimes this takes days, sometimes weeks or months: sometimes 1-2 meetings, sometimes many more.
  • Advocacy and support for clients whose wishes are not being met or who are not getting adequate pain or symptom management.
  • Meet with families to help facilitate discussions about the client’s end-of-life wishes.
  • Provide information and support to family members regarding the process of their loved one’s dying, what to expect and how they can best provide compassionate and helpful support.
  • Provide support and reassurance to the client as he/she navigates their way through the process of accessing medical aid in dying and encouraging the client/family to advocate for themselves. We are willing also to advocate for them if necessary, such as helping the client find physicians willing to prescribe and facilitate a conversation with physicians or hospice to help clients get needed services or adequate pain control.
  • We are able to bring an experienced, calm, peaceful and reassuring presence on the day of planned death, to help review instructions and provide moral support and comfort to both the client and family.
  • Assist in completing or understanding advance directives.

Our EOLCCA volunteers also can be trained to provide educational presentations to hospices, community groups and others to help the public understand about ALL their end of life options.

Please complete a Client Advocate Volunteer application by August 10.  Once it is received, we will contact you with additional information including the location and address of the training session.  Please contact us if you have any questions or would like more information. We’d love to talk with you.

National Clinicians Conference On Medical Aid In Dying

We are pleased to announce that End of Life Choices California just became an official sponsor of the first-of-its-kind National Clinicians Conference on Medical Aid in Dying taking place at University of California, Berkeley on February 14-15, 2020.  

We are very excited and proud to be part of this national gathering of clinicians and others interested in sharing knowledge and experience with each other about medical aid in dying.  

For many years, clinicians have had to work hard to find reliable information for their patients who wished to participate in their state’s law allowing medical aid in dying. This groundbreaking conference will bring together informed and compassionate healthcare practitioners to share information, resources, experiences, and best practices in the expanding field of end of life care.  

End of Life Choices California is hoping to host a panel to discuss how we help individuals and families make difficult end of life choices through our client advocate volunteer program.

For more information about our program and services, how to become a volunteer, or to schedule a speaker for your group, visit our website.  Please also share our resources with your friends, family, health care providers, and colleagues.  Hopefully we’ll see you in Berkeley next February!

Please consider making a donation to support our work.  Thank you!

 

Client Advocate Volunteer Training Program Launched

EOLCCA inaugurated its first Client Advocate Volunteer Training program on June 2, 2019 in Tarzana, CA.  We spent a fact-filled day training four wonderful volunteers from the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, sharing information and reviewing best practices we expect from all EOLCCA Client Advocate Volunteers.   

Pictured above (r-l) are Stefanie Elkins, Judy Schnack, Karen Morin Green, Jill Schock, Lynne Zamarin, Judy Epstein, Lynne Calkins and Claudia Comins

We discussed the caring approach each volunteer will adopt in providing non-judgemental support to a terminally-ill client, and their loved ones, as they navigate the process of exploring all legal end of life options available to them in California, including medical aid in dying, allowed by the End of Life Option Act.  During that stage, the client and/or family may seek our experience and support as they interact with a new and unfamiliar array of healthcare providers, or to effectively communicate to family and their physicians the decisions they have made consistent with their personal values, beliefs, and desires.

We also reviewed the importance of Advance Care Planning (ACP), so that our volunteers can be of assistance to individuals who wish to learn more about preparing Advance Directives, well before they are facing a terminal or debilitating illness.  ACP is a vital resource that enables individuals to document now their future healthcare expectations, so that if the person becomes unable to communicate their healthcare wishes, their loved ones and healthcare providers are clearly informed.  ACP is, in fact, a useful tool for adults at all stages of life, young and not-so-young! Participation in advance care planning has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety for patients and their families, and lead to improvements in end of life care. 

Please browse our website for comprehensive information about all end of life options in California, Advance Care Planning, and to learn more about the resources, services and support EOLCCA provides at no charge.  

 

UCSF drops proposed partnership with Dignity Health!

We are delighted to let you know that patient choice has won again!  The University of California San Francisco has decided not to pursue a proposal to partner with Dignity Health in San Francisco.  Bravo UCSF!!

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood and UCSF President & CEO Mark Laret sent out a letter this morning with their decision.  

 We heartily agree with the words of our Board member, Dr. Bob Brody, a physician at UCSF, “this is an amazing outcome”.  Yes it is!

 You can read more about UCSF’s decision here in their updated FAQs.

Judy Neall Epstein,

Founding Director, President

End of Life Choices California
info@endoflifechoicesca.org

How to Make Doctors Think About Death

An Opinion piece was recently was published in the New York Times by Theresa Brown entitled, How to Make Doctors Think About Death.  It was a great piece and right on target.  It discusses how often physicians are, out of habit, treating symptoms without seeing the big picture in a dying patient.  It can be difficult for the physician to admit s/he has run out of options and there’s nothing left to do.


Here is an excerpt from Ms. Brown’s Opinion:  

It made sense to switch him to “comfort measures”: to focus on alleviating his suffering rather than curing him.  It would also make sense to have general treatment guidelines for situations like this, guidelines to indicate when comfort, not cure, is most appropriate. But no such guidelines exist.”


The sad truth is that no such guidelines exist for physicians. However, guidelines do exist for patients!  The other sad truth is that most patients don’t know it. They follow suggestions and prescriptions and trials and more trials even in the face of their oncoming demise. Everyone wants to think the next great idea will be the one to pull the patient back from the brink of death into a life full of meaning and options again. This is rarely the case.

At End of Life Choices California, we believe in planning ahead for such a situation. In addition to the Advance Care Planning documents we have provided on our website,we also offer information and advice about how to specify exactly what you want and don’t want at end of life. We all need to be specific about our wishes, discuss them and write them down. EOLCCA is available to help individuals as well as provide information about advance care planning to community groups and other organizations.

We DO have options at the end of life. We do have choice. We just need to know about it.

Please take the time to educate yourself, talk with your physician, talk with your family.  It matters not whether you are young or old, sick or well. All adults should think about this and write down their preferences.  We will not live forever and none of us knows how the end will come. Every day is a gift, so be sure your loved ones know what your ending looks like, should it come as a surprise or as an expected outcome of disease.