What you could learn from a Wisconsin city where people aren’t afraid to talk about aging

In one city in Wisconsin, everyone talks about the difficult realities of aging.

About 96 percent of people who die in La Crosse, a city roughly the size of Bangor situated on the Mississippi River, have completed an advance directive or similar paperwork spelling out their wishes for end-of-life care, NPR recently reported. That’s more than three times the national rate — only about 30 percent of adults have prepared instructions in the event they become seriously ill.

In La Crosse, much of the credit goes to a man named Bud Hammes, a medical ethicist at the local Gundersen Health System, according to NPR. After years of shepherding families through excruciating decisions after the death of their loved ones, he began training nurses to ask patients to fill out advance directives ahead of time.

The approach has since become an internationally recognized, evidence-based model known as “Respecting Choices.” Last year, the European Union announced plans for an $8.5 million study that will use Respecting Choices as its model.

How does the program work? What kinds of questions does it urge patients to consider?

Learn more on Thursday, July 16 at the 2015 Senior Expo at Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, sponsored by the Bangor Daily News and the Southern Maine Agency on Aging. Katlyn Blackstone, director of community services for SMAA, will speak about how to prepare your own directive and articulate your wishes using the Respecting Choices framework.


The day’s lineup also includes a recorded message from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and speakers on topics ranging from avoiding falls to estate planning to facing a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors with tech troubles can bring in a smartphone or tablet to receive in-person help desk support.

Admission is free. The day kicks off at 9 a.m. and wraps up at 3 p.m.

Register here. For more information, call 990-8021 or email Events@bangordailynews.com.


Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.