College Students, Fine Arts and … Healthcare Decisions

  • Apr 15, 2016 -
  • Paul Malley
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A group of young college students may not immediately come to mind as typical champions of encouraging people to make decisions before a health crisis and promoting National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16).  But you haven’t met these Arts Administration students at Florida State University, who see things a bit differently when it comes to using the arts as a way to engage the community at large.Take a look at their video and see why they were motivated to spread the word about Five Wishes to their family and friends.  Here’s what I love about the approach of these students.  When they thought of advance care planning, they thought about these important questions:  Who am I?  What is important to me? What makes me feel comfortable and safe? What should other people know about me?

It reminds me of a presentation I heard earlier this week in San Diego at the Healthcare Chaplaincy Network. Harvey Max Chochinov from Winnipeg is one of the most prolific researchers in the field of dignity and healthcare. All of Dr. Chochinov’s works are worth reading. He highlights what he calls the PDQ, the Personal Dignity Question: What do I need to know about you as a person to give you the best care possible?

The fact that Five Wishes helps people think about advance care planning in these terms – including meaning, dignity, spirituality, comfort and personal relationships – is one reason for its popularity.

It is why these college students were drawn to Five Wishes, and why their first reaction was to see advance care planning through the lens of what has meaning and purpose in their own lives.  In their case, they went to the arts – theater, dance, and visual arts – as a place where they find meaning.  They started with these things that matter most to them and continued with completing Five Wishes.  They gave instructions about what was important to them regarding their care in case of a health crisis, named a health care agent, and talked with their family and friends.

This is what good advance care planning looks like.  It reaches people where they are, at every age.  It focuses on meaning and dignity and relevance.

The students also set up a table in the Student Union to distribute Five Wishes on campus.  They had a prominent location between fraternities, sororities, and people selling vintage vinyl records.  One of the visual arts students even created an interactive brochure to tell others about Five Wishes.  Admittedly, I assumed that an interactive brochure might involve a new iPhone app or something else technical.  Nope.  It’s much simpler and yet, more elegant:  A small booklet that you hold in your hands, flip through the pages, look at the drawings, and read just a few words to get you thinking… “It’s in your hands now.”Booklet created at FSU to support Five WishesBravo to these students for a job well done!  Thanks especially to their instructor, Susan Mann, who guided them along this process.  Many of these students are aiming for future careers in arts administration.  Thanks to the efforts of the FSU Arts Administration Department and Professor Mann, they will also be valuable members of their local communities through their support of nonprofit organizations and partnerships for good causes. You all deserve a round of applause and a standing ovation!

I’ll leave you with a few images of these students in action, and their perspective on advance care planning with Five Wishes in their own words:Aging with Dignity representatives with FSU students on campus

“I define Five Wishes as document that instills humanity to the medical field.”

“It is a means of maintaining one’s dignity in life.”

“This should be talked about among all demographics, not just the elderly.”

“Dance allows me to archive my testimonies and gives me comfort. The way I move is evidence of my existence.”

“Everything that I created in the moment , in that space, is exactly what I needed to say and it came from a place that is so deep within me that there is no right or wrong to it.”

Five Wishes is like dance in a way that it helps me feel confident in how I want to carry myself, not just as a dancer but as a human being.”

“Being in a theater comforts me.  It gives me this relief that I can’t feel anywhere else.”

“As an artist, art is very significant to who I am.  Filling out Five Wishes means I can preserve the artist in me even during times of hardship.”

“What comforts me in life is when I get to go home.”

“It’s never too early to plan.”

“Filling out FW is a way to feel secure, for my family especially.”

Paul Malley is president of Aging with Dignity.