Highlighting Your Health: End-of-life book tour serves as important reminder for advance care planning
Vidant Health Communications
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Editors note: This is first in a regular series of health columns provided to Adams Publishing Group through Vidant Health.
GREENVILLE — If you start your career in New York City writing for film and TV, including Saturday Night Live, what do you do next?
If you’re Kimberly C. Paul, you follow your heart and open your mind to a bit of happenstance. About 18 years later, you ditch nearly all your belongings and begin a nationwide speaking tour in a funky RV to promote your book, blog and podcast about — wait for it — how to reimagine the end of your life.
A captivating storyteller, Paul is on a mission to convince Americans to seize control of their death experience now, long before they think they need it by utilizing an Advance Care Plan. More important, she urges them to document their wishes in legal documents known as Advance Directives to ensure that their loved ones and their doctors will ensure that they are honored.
“How do we become the architect of our own destiny,” Paul said in a recent presentation to the End of Life Workgroup at Vidant Health. “How can we build pathways to our life’s last chapter?”
Vidant Health hosted 20 “Live Well, Die Well” events where Paul delivered her message throughout eastern North Carolina in March. The hope is to encourage people to think deeply about how they want to die, to have meaningful conversations with their loved ones and to make their wishes official, especially while they are well.
Paul arrived at her life’s work through a circuitous route. Three months after graduating from Meredith College in Raleigh, she landed a job on the set of SNL and made successful jumps from one TV and film opportunity to another. She found work on Dawson’s Creek, which was being filmed in Wilmington. When she learned that the production had ceased, she took a temporary job working at a hospice organization as a bridge until she could get back into TV and film.
The role captivated Paul, who soon came to empathize with the dying and feel an innate need to support them and their loved ones. What started as a short-term gig became a 17-year passion. She captured the experiences of her patients and her co-workers.
“I felt a need to create a movement that would meet providers half way,” she said. She wants to change the system. “All too often, providers think of death as their personal failure, yet it’s really an important part of living that should be celebrated.”
Many find it difficult to have these types of conversations. However, it is important to discuss advance care planning with everyone over the age of 18. Working on the paperwork and process while you and your loved one are well is necessary because it serves as a safety net in the event that something unexpected happens.
Paul’s experiences, together with her years of hospice work, inspired her to start the podcast, Death by Design, and write a book, Bridging the Gap, under her own publishing label. It also nudged her out of her comfortable life in Wilmington to live out of a 29-foot RV on the road with her well-loved German shepherd, Haven.
She also can’t help but make connections along the way.
Iona Rebh, a Washington native, was in attendance for the event in Greenville. She lost her father two years ago and benefitted from a support group connected to advance care planning. Now, she better understands the need for advance care planning.
“I hesitated coming because I thought was going to be all about death,” Rebh said, “but it was about living — and remembering. I never thought about death in that way, that everyone dies and they should have their wishes known.”
Vidant offers advance care planning education in all of its 29 counties. To learn more about advance care planning and events near you, visit VidantHealth.com/AdvanceCare or email AdvanceCare.com
Highlighting Your health is an educational segment courtesy of Vidant Health that appears twice a month in The Daily Reflector. Vidant is a mission-driven, 1,504-bed health system that annually serves more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.
NEED TO KNOW
There are five key steps to completing your Advance Care Plan.
1. Think About - Think about what matters most to you.
2. Talk About - Talk about it with your family, friends and health care provider(s).
3. Put it in Writing - Document your preferences in a legal form. 4. Share – Share Your Advance Directives with your family, friends and health care providers.
5. Review - Review your documents periodically, but at least annually.
The biggest misconception is that only sick or elderly people need to worry about advance care planning. In fact, it is never too early to start planning.
Your Advance Directive can be changed at any time. This paperwork does not require an attorney. In North Carolina, directives only require a notary and two witnesses, and can be completed free of charge.