By Adrian Diogo
Intern, New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute
That is the premise behind the film The Bucket List, when two terminally ill cancer patients receive news that they have just a year to live. Ed (Jack Nicholson) and Carter (Morgan Freeman) become friends during their respective cancer treatments and embark on a journey to complete their bucket list before they “kick the bucket.”
As humorous as the film may portray death, for many New Jersey residents, death is a difficult conversation to have. Only 61 percent of New Jersey adult residents are comfortable with the thought of aging and end of life care, and 38 percent of New Jersey adult residents have not had conversations about advanced care planning, according to a Health Matters Poll conducted by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and the Rutgers Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.
Advance care planning gives patients the power to decide on treatments and procedures they prefer when they are incapable of communicating their wishes. Advance care planning usually involves one of two documents: an instruction directive and/or a proxy directive.
The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute’s Mayors Wellness Campaign (MWC) is a statewide health initiative in collaboration with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, providing mayors with tools and strategies to improve the overall health of their communities. Within the MWC is the Conversation of Your Life program that engages communities to begin conversations about advance care planning. With the generous support of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, Conversation of Your Life has expanded to three New Jersey counties: Bergen, Camden, and Mercer.
Some municipalities are using the arts to promote advance care planning conversations within their communities. Hosted by the Perkins Center for the Arts and in partnership with Courier-Post and Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice, The Before I Die Festival is an interactive event filled with music, face painting, yoga, a magician, and… death! The Before I Die Festival is an interactive afternoon of conversation, information, an award-winning documentary, art, poetry, music and more that allows you to dabble, or jump in, to end-of-life conversations at your own pace. Its goal is to attract community members and promote advance care planning. This event provides plenty of emotional lubricants to ease the pain of end-of-life-conversations.
Through painting, sculpture, music, poetry, or any other form of expressive art, the difficulty of discussing end-of-life care can be relieved. Active arts participation provides people with opportunities to express difficult emotions in a non-verbal manner, which can be beneficial when discussing the logistics of death.
Having a discussion on your end-of-life care with family may be tough, but it’s important, especially if you want to complete your bucket list!
For more information on advance care planning, visit http://www.nj.gov/health/advancedirective
Adrian Diogo is the Mayors Wellness Campaign Intern at the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. For more information about NJHCQI, visit http://www.njhcqi.org/. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.