Conference Will Examine End of Life Issues

BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Catholic Charities West Virginia are co-sponsoring “Living to the End: Practical Issues at the End of Life” Oct. 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at All Saints Church in Bridgeport
The conference is also being sponsored by the West Virginia Alliance for Ethical Health Care and the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council, and will offer a wealth of information and discussion for families and individuals facing these issues. Presenters will be Cristen Krebs, DNP, founder/executive director at Catholic Hospice in Pittsburgh; Linda Higgs of the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council; and Mary Hencke Tillman, J.D. of the West Virginia Alliance for Ethical Health Care.
West Virginia’s population is aging, conference organizers said. “More people than ever are confronted with end of life decisions, for themselves or for their loved ones,” they said. “We all want our loved ones to be treated with dignity throughout their lives,” program organizers said. “But lines of communication between family members and medical professionals can be clouded by grief and confusion. The needs of patients and their families are often caught somewhere between cultural expectations and the legal implications of caring for people during difficult times. Explaining the intricacies of palliative care to grieving families can be difficult.”
The conference will allow those confronted with these issues with the opportunity to discuss a path forward that honors the dignity of all human life —those aging, infirm, or with disabilities.
The conference will begin with registration and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“Preserving Dignity: Hospice Care in the 21st Century” is the first presentation of the conference and will be presented by Krebs at 12:30 p.m.
Krebs is a graduate of Robert Morris University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Program with 28 years of commitment to care of individuals living with advanced and terminal illnesses. Focusing on providing patients with relief from the physical symptoms and stress a progressive illness brings, Krebs strives to improve the quality of life for both the patient and family members. In 1997, she began the first faith-based, non-profit hospice serving Pittsburgh and surrounding counties—Good Samaritan Hospice.
Higgs’ presentation “Cultural Shifts Regarding End of Life” will follow, and will include screening clips of the film, The Euthanasia Deception.
Higgs has been involved in advocating on behalf of people with developmental and other disabilities since the birth of her youngest daughter, Maria, in 1987. Over the past 32 years she has held a variety of volunteer as well as paid positions in the area of developmental disabilities.  She has been in her current position at the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council for the last 18 years where, among other things, she does policy analysis and coordinates trainings. Her areas of interest are those of importance to people with the most significant disabilities and vulnerabilities, and include health related issues, services, guardianship issues, and studying and teaching the theory of Social Role Valorization.
“Advance Directives: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” will be the final offering, and will be presented by Tillman. She is the wife of Mike Tillman, and mother of six. She practiced law in Maryland for nine years, and later homeschooled her children for 23 years.  She has been active in the pro-life movement for over 30 years, and resides in Harrison County. As legislative coordinator for the West Virginia Alliance for Ethical Health Care, a subcommittee of West Virginians for Life, she will be explaining the “Options in Living Wills” bill, and the need for advance directives that protect vulnerable lives.
A question and answer session with facilitators will also be held.
Registration is $10 and includes lunch. Registration may be completed at https://catholic charitieswv.org/blog/living-to-the-end/

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