Hard conversations, simple paperwork help families avoid heartache

patient in bed focused on holding hand with loved oneIf you know Dr. Malec Mokraoui, you can imagine the look on his face when he talks about something he’s passionate about—his family here and in Algeria, the patients he’s served at Carle since 2001 and a family in crisis years before that.

At that time, Dr. Mokraoui had to be firm on the phone with a well-meaning adult child across the country who insisted on making decisions about a dying parent without considering what the siblings at the bedside were seeing.

“This person had no quality of life. Sometimes people have been through so much, they’re no longer themselves. Death is not a bad outcome sometimes,” he said, imploring people to make their end-of-life wishes known by understanding and completing advance directives.

Community members and healthcare professionals can learn about advance directives and more at a two-part event Saturday, April 15 at The Forum at Carle in Urbana. From 7:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., the My Life. My Health. My Voice. seminar provides a half day of education for $15 about:

  • Leaving a legacy
  • Health literacy
  • Hospice care and more

From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., anyone can receive free help with advance directives at the now-annual program organized by Carle social workers.

“Advance directives give people a voice when they are unable to speak for themselves because of an injury or illness,” said Natalie Pankau, Carle social worker and event organizer. “Advance directives can ease family conflict by allowing us, as healthcare providers, to know and honor their wishes.”

Health literacy—or understanding the sometimes-complicated processes patients face—is important, Pankau said, so patients’ families can serve as both skilled caregivers and strong advocates.

Dr. Mokraoui does counsel patients with certain implanted heart devices about advance directives.

“When a patient with a defibrillator specifies in their end-of-life wishes the circumstances in which they no longer want to be kept alive, we follow their wishes and turn the device off,” he said, adding the device will then no longer do its job of restoring a proper heart rhythm.

Dr. Malec MokraouiDuring these and similar conversations, Dr. Mokraoui relies on the relationships he’s built with his patients and their families.

“Showing empathy and staying in the moment are important,” he said. “One cannot be cavalier. We have to have an honest and candid discussion. We talk about quality of life.

“Often they don’t want to walk out without turning every stone. When we’ve done that, I encourage them to say what they want for themselves and for their families.”

While advance directives might be hard to talk about, Pankau and Dr. Mokraoui insist it’s worth it to avoid the heartache they’ve seen.

For information about Saturday’s event, please call 217-365-6235 or visit My Life. My Health. My Voice.