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Making a Difference: Alberta Golden in Seattle

Summer 2005

After four years of conducting advance directives training in the Seattle area, Alberta Golden knows what the documents are worth. "Peace of mind," she declares. "That's the legacy you leave to your family."

As a Compassion & Choices of Washington affiliate board member and active volunteer, Alberta's trainings are not her only contribution to choice at the end of life, but they are unique. Rather than brief seminars, they are intense, four-hour workshops, usually held over a two-day period. Classes are limited to no more than a dozen attendees, so participants have the opportunity to talk and interact. Her trainings are offered in various locations as needed, including senior centers, local meetings, and in a seniors' course at a local community college.

The workshops focus on the core elements of effective advance directives. Rather than simply filling out forms, participants consider the difficult questions posed by advance health care decisions: Whom should you choose as a health care surrogate? What should you say when you talk to your doctor? What should you say to your family? To answer these questions, many participants have to dig deep into their desires and motivations, discovering just what they would like the end of life to be like, and whom they trust to help them achieve it.

Alberta participated in her first advance directives training at a meeting of a women's group of which she is a member. More than 30 people split into three smaller groups, and Alberta facilitated one of the groups. At the end of the session, 33 women had completed their advance directives for health care.

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After seeing the tangible difference the event made, Alberta was hooked. "When 10 people leave the workshop with their affairs in order, I've made a difference," she says. Word began to spread, and Alberta began to receive requests. Her training program was launched.

One of the things Alberta highlights in her training is how important it is to keep a complete file of your advance directive and related paperwork, called a "Last Wishes File". And don't file it away! "Put it somewhere available, and make sure other people know about it," she advises. The idea is that convenience and availability are key.

The facilitated discussion is arguably the most valuable portion of the extended workshop. "At least half the people who come already have their forms," Alberta points out. "They want to learn more," she says.

Alberta, who will soon turn 74, doesn't plan to bring in her shingle anytime soon. For now, she is pleased to continue helping people find ways to enforce their health care wishes. "People already have choices at the end of life. I'm giving them the opportunity to exercise them," she says. "This stage of my life is a gift to me."




  
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This article was provided by Compassion & Choices. It is a part of the publication Compassion & Choices Magazine.
 

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