September 19, 2014

Conference to address practical, ethical issues of caregiving

In this photo from June 2012, St. Augustine Home for the Aged resident Donald Bird of Indianapolis kisses his wife, Mary, in her room at the home operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor. A conference being held on Oct. 17 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis will address practical, legal and ethical issues that caregivers often face. (Criterion file photo)

In this photo from June 2012, St. Augustine Home for the Aged resident Donald Bird of Indianapolis kisses his wife, Mary, in her room at the home operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor. A conference being held on Oct. 17 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis will address practical, legal and ethical issues that caregivers often face. (Criterion file photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

In 2009, more than 39 million people in the United States were age 65 or older.

By 2030, that figure is expected to be more than 72 million.

But many people don’t need these statistics on aging from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to know that more people are living longer. They know from the personal experience of caring for aging parents, spouses and others.

“People are living longer, so we’re all more than likely going to help with someone who is ill, someone you’re close to,” said Kathleen Stretch, outreach coordinator for St. Vincent Hospice in Indianapolis.

That is why the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life and Family Life, in cooperation with St. Vincent health network, is hosting a Caregiver Conference on Oct. 17 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

“We scheduled this [conference] for October, which is pro-life month, because we really believe that dying with dignity is a pro-life issue,” said Joni LeBeau, coordinator of health ministries for the archdiocese.

The conference’s title, “You Will Lead Me by the Right Road: Decision Making in Health Care,” provides a glimpse of the event’s focus.

According to LeBeau, the conference is intended for “anyone involved in caregiving and making caregiving decisions, whether family, friends, parish staff, social workers, nurses, health care professionals, deacons.

“[The conference] runs the gamut of things,” she said, including speakers on family dynamics in decision making, ethics and legal terms. There is also a panel discussion on various scenarios dealing with cultural and hospital influences on decision making.

Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, bishop of the Lafayette Diocese, will also speak on the topic of “Who Decides?” Bishop Doherty is a former diocesan ethicist for health care issues and currently serves on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ health care subcommittee.

“People think they have to do everything possible [to keep their loved one alive],” LeBeau said in regard to a common health care ethical conundrums.

LeBeau said the conference seeks to “give knowledge and resources on how to make these [caregiving] decisions, but we don’t tell people exactly what to do. It’s a way of learning all of your choices with an educated eye, not a knee-jerk response.”

Such knee-jerk reactions are understandable, given the complicated nature of the health care industry.

“Health care is very complex, even for the people who work in it,” said Elliott Bedford, system director of ethics integration for the Indianapolis-based St. Vincent health network.

“With the rise in technology and medicine, especially from the 1980s onward, we’ve got all sorts of new capabilities.

“But along with that come [questions about] what’s the best way to use it and make sense of what we’re trying to do.”

With master’s degrees in philosophy and theology and a doctorate in health care ethics in the Catholic tradition, Bedford is well-equipped to tackle such issues.

In his session during the conference, Bedford will provide an overview of the ethics and teachings that inspire practices at Catholic hospitals.

“I want to spell out the practical points of here’s how you get an ethics consultation, here’s what to expect in an ethics consultation, here’s what we do.”

He hopes that after his session, attendees will “have an idea of the mechanics in a world you’re not familiar with, so you can say, ‘Here’s something I’d like to use to establish a plan of care.’

“And it’s not just end-of-life care. You could go under anesthesia and need to have someone make a decision while you’re not able to.

“I hope [after the session] that every participant can say, ‘This is something I can do that will help me navigate through this world that is complex and changing.’ ”

The complicated American health care system is even more intimidating and baffling for those of different cultures, said Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry.

“There’s a misunderstanding on both sides because of cultural traditions and practices,” he said. “And it’s not just language.

“Cultural expectations are that people will show that they care by spending time. But here, time is very important. That’s why many people from different cultures don’t go to the doctor, because it doesn’t meet their expectations.”

As a member of a panel discussion addressing common scenarios for caregivers, Brother Moises looks forward to interacting with the participants.

“We’re not going to talk in theory,” he said. “We’re going to use specific cases with specific examples of difficult situations.

“We’ll present certain approaches to certain cases, then invite people to respond with alternative ideas or questions. It’s going to be very interactive.”

LeBeau said the conference is designed to offer facts and practical applications, all in light of the Catholic faith.

“Our faith is inbred in our view of life and the way we live it and look at it. It’s the basis for our ethical questions.

“But the conference is built on facts and experiences of those people who are helping with it.

“There’ll be a lot of handouts and resources for people, things they can take home. We’ve got one great speaker after the other with good, quality information.

“Those who go are going to get a lot for their time.”
 

(The conference is from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., with registration at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 17 at 1400 N. Meridian St. in Indianapolis. An optional Mass is being celebrated at 8 a.m. The cost is $30, which includes lunch, as well as CEUs for social workers. Registration is required by Oct. 8. To register, send your name, address, phone, e-mail, organization and parish/church along with a $30 check made out to Office of Pro-Life and Family Life to: Office of Pro-Life and Family Life, c/o Conference Registration, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. For more information, contact Joni LeBeau at 317-236-1475 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1475, or e-mail jlebeau@archindy.org.)

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