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National Expert Draws Record Attendance at Hospice Conference


Center to Advance Palliative Care Director Dr. Diane Meier addresses hundreds of physicians and caregivers at Hospice of Southern Maine’s annual Thresholds Conference

PORTLAND, Maine (May 6, 2016) – Internationally renowned hospice and palliative care expert Dr. Diane Meier addressed hundreds of physicians, clinicians, caregivers, and the public Wednesday at Hospice of Southern Maine’s annual Thresholds Conference about how to talk about end-of-life  wishes with family and physicians. 

Meier’s talks Wednesday -- first to a large audience of physicians at Maine Medical Center’s Grand Rounds and eight remote locations via live streaming (including Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, and Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport), and then to a packed house at the University of Southern Maine -- addressed an important but often difficult topic:  talking about what matters most at the end-of-life.

“These conversations about what matters most in life in the face of serious and terminal illness are at least as complex as neurosurgery, and yet no one is trained for it,” commented Meier, who in addition to being a practicing physician and prolific author, is also the recipient of the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor. “Doctors need training and our patients and their family caregivers need to be informed in order to advocate for the care they want and need.”

Recent studies have shown that while physicians understand the importance of initiating end-of-life conversations, many find themselves unsure of what to say and many more have had no formal training in this area. Likewise, patients and their families, friends and caregivers want to discuss options and quality of life, but are often unsure of how to start.

“The fact that the conference sold out over a month ahead of time and we filled a remote viewing room in short order as well, to me is evidence of the overwhelming desire to understand that there are options, even at end of life,” said Daryl Cady, Hospice of Southern Maine CEO. “People want the most out of their life and want to understand how to make that happen, even when facing serious prognosis.”

The Conference attracted over 350 people to USM, and hundreds more have already registered for upcoming community forums.

In order to reach more people, HSM is hosting a series of six Thresholds Community Forums in communities across York and Cumberland counties through the end of the year. The Community Forums are free and open to the public, including a light supper, screening of a short video highlighting key points from the conference, and a facilitated discussion about what to say and do when talking about end-of-life and quality-of-life decisions with family, friends, or physicians.

For more information and to register for Thresholds Community Forums, please visit http://www.hospiceofsouthernmaine.org/thresholds  

About Thresholds Conference

The Anne L. Hunter Memorial Thresholds Conference is an annual educational event, designed to provide clinicians, social workers and care givers the knowledge and tools to understand hospice care and conduct appropriate conversations about end-of-life decisions. Now in its sixth year thanks to a generous endowment from the estate of the Reverend Anne L. Hunter, Thresholds has launched a community-based initiative to continue this work in the communities of York and Cumberland counties. 

About Hospice of Southern Maine

Hospice of Southern Maine’s mission is to provide compassion, care, and comfort through end of life. Formed through a collaborative effort among York and Cumberland County leaders and health care providers, Hospice of Southern Maine (HSM) organized in 2001 and began providing direct patient services in 2004. Today, HSM cares for more than 1,400 patients annually, at the patient's home, current care facility, or Gosnell Memorial Hospice House, an 18-bed inpatient facility in Scarborough. HSM admits patients with a variety of diagnoses, including Alzheimer's; heart, lung, and kidney diseases; stroke; Lou Gehrig's disease; and cancer. Care is patient-centered with family support, and provided by a comprehensive interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, aides, chaplains, grief counselors, and volunteers. Hospice of Southern Maine is a non-profit 501(c)3, Medicare certified, state licensed agency, and the largest provider of hospice services in Southern Maine. To learn more, visit www.hospiceofsouthernmaine.org.