Fox Valley Leaders "Plunge" into End-of-Life Issues

More than 60 community leaders from the Fox Valley region immersed themselves in end-of-life issues during a day-long “Community Plunge” on April 11.

The annual event takes community leaders into the heart of a community—on a yellow school bus—to learn about a different priority health issue each year.

This year’s plunge, “End of Life: The Last Chapter”, included a tour of a local hospice and funeral home, explored the meaning of death within different faith and cultural traditions, and presented effective models for advance care planning, including the Respecting Choices® model developed by Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.

The Plunge is hosted by the ThedaCare-led Community Health Action Team (CHAT). The CHAT Team is comprised of approximately 25 community leaders from various sectors, including public health, transportation, health care, business, non-profits, faith and education. ThedaCare is a participant in Honoring Choices Wisconsin.

The day started at Cherry Meadows, a hospice facility run by ThedaCare. A local physician spoke about why death is a taboo topic in our culture today. Participants watched Consider the Conversation, a documentary on communication at the end of life, and toured the hospice facility. Physicians, nurses and clergy described the barriers they encounter in helping people live their final days according to their wishes and values. 

Next, attendees visited a local funeral home. Leaders of minority faith and cultural groups, such as Muslim and Hmong, spoke about how their communities prepare for death.

During lunch, Sandy Potts, Director of the Fox Valley End-of-Life coalition, introduced the process of advance care planning, including the completion of advance directive documents.

The final stop of the day was to the The Trout Museum of Art, where Dr. Bud Hammes of Gundersen Health System shared his community’s success story. In La Crosse, more than 94 percent of people have an Advanced Directive filed in their medical record. 

Participants are working on a community action plan to make advance care planning a commonplace experience for adults in the Fox Valley.