Take control of the last chapter of your life

Cookeville physician Chet Gentry, M.D.  broke the silence surrounding end-of-life discussions by offering an educational seminar at 6 pm on Thursday, December 3, 2015 at Innovative Family Care, 3300 Williams Enterprise Drive, Suite 1 in Cookeville. This workshop is the first of its kind in the Cumberland Plateau region.

Dr. Gentry, a family physician who is also a Board Certified hospice physician, conceived the event after observing how many of his patients’ families were ill-prepared to face end-of-life issues. “There is more that needs to be covered on death and dying than can be covered in the exam room in the doctor's office,” said Dr. Gentry, who owned a primary care practice in Sparta and worked as a hospitalist and emergency room physician before opening Innovative Family Care three years ago. “Many people think they’re prepared but when things don’t unfold the way they anticipate, the process of getting medical care often robs people of the change to have their end of life be the way they want it to be.” 

The workshop covered a wide range of topics that will empower people to be proactive in their decision making, including various medical scenarios as the end of life approaches, and how medical care and the decision making process both evolve as a disease progresses. The workshop also featured a segment on choosing health care decision makers and setting up advance directives. Barbara Boone McGinnis, Associate Attorney with Elder Law Practice of Timothy L. Takacs in Hendersonville, TN, discussed medical, legal and financial issues that are an important part of planning.

Dr. Gentry believes that end of life planning should be a routine part of health care and that primary care physicians are in the best position to lead the conversation. He incorporates end of life planning in patients’ annual wellness exams, approaching the often-difficult subject in a straightforward manner. “Thorough planning for medical care at the end of life requires thinking about more than just medical issues,” said Dr. Gentry, who designed the education event to complement his one-on-one discussions with patients. “Having the resources available to provide needed medical support services is just as important as the actual decision-making process. It is my intent that people will leave the seminar with less fear, a greater sense of hope for control over how the last years of their lives will be spent, and with a strong commitment to finish their end-of-life planning so they can have a greater sense of peace and security.”

Dr. Gentry tackles the tough subject head on. “This is very hard for families to discuss,” Dr. Gentry added. “Patients and family members often have very different agendas. This project is an attempt to get the patient to stop and think about the way their last months might unfold and to make decisions about what they want. And once they’ve decided, they can be deliberate about choosing decision makers who can make sure their wishes are carried out.” 

To learn more about end-of-life planning, visit www.innovativefamilycare.com, www.tn-elderlaw.com, www.theconversationproject.org, or agingwithdignity.org. 

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