NewsCovering Colorado


Non-profit helping people have difficult conversations at the end of their lives

60% of people haven't had a conversation with their loved ones about what to do when they die, according to Silver Key Senior Services
Posted at 8:18 PM, Apr 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-23 22:18:15-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — When Catherine Hammond was in college, her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease and was moved into a nursing home. By the time Hammond was 22, she had to make some tough decisions.

"They asked me out of the blue if I wanted to give her artificial nutrition and hydration, or if I wanted to let her pass away. A decision of which I was woefully unprepared," she tells me.

After that moment, Hammond was inspired to attend law school to become an attorney. At her practice Hammond Law Group, she helps families prepare for tough end-of-life conversations.

"Ultimately it's a giant gift to our families to talk about things in advance," she said.

Chaplain Don Spano says he's consoled far too many families who have lost a loved one and been woefully unprepared for the steps that come afterward.

"End of life. Is that to be a time of celebration, or contention?" he told me.

Spano now works with Silver Key Senior Services to help families navigate issues like medical treatment, estate planning, or funeral services if a loved one becomes sick or passes away. They have a document called Five Wishes that makes it simple.

"We found by doing five wishes, we're getting younger generations involved in helping their parents plan ahead and expressing their desires so that the end of life becomes a time of celebration," he said.

"Wish number 1 is identifying a healthcare agent. This is somebody that you know and trust who's detail-oriented who can communicate for you when you're too ill to communicate for yourself. Wish number 2 is identifying the medical treatment you do or don't want to receive. Wish number 3 is how comfortable you want to be. Wish number 4 and 5 is how you want people to treat you, and what you want your loved ones to know," said the Director of Volunteer Events and Community Engagement Jayme Holigan.

That's something Hammond is happy to see others looking to focus on. She says when those legal issues between family members are ironed out before a loved one's final days, the family can be present.

"What I see happen is that the families stay focused on being in the moment, whatever the moment is," she told me.

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