Volunteer Spotlight: Lynn Weitzel
Always interested in the medical field, Denver-based volunteer Lynn Weitzel returned to school at age 53 to start a career as a hospice nurse, bringing her in close contact with end-of-life issues. Being aware of how many hospice patients had not stated their wishes regarding final care options and that even though some had, they were not honored because patients had filled out the paperwork but not had the tough conversations with family members, Lynn made it part of her case management to encourage those discussions and became a vocal advocate of advance planning.
Lynn went through C&C’s volunteer training after retiring 10 years ago, and has done everything from help run events to serve as vice president on the Denver chapter board of directors. “Something else I have been doing ever since I became a volunteer is talk to various groups about getting their advance directives done,” says Lynn. “At churches, groups like the Rotary Club … anytime anyone will get 15 people together, I’ll go talk.” Lynn even traveled to Aspen and spoke to a book group that was reading about the Oregon law. “With the possibility of a law being introduced in the Colorado legislature next January, I will certainly be talking up the bill.”
Utilizing her nursing background, Lynn also works directly with End-of-Life Consultation clients: “I’ve had several people in the Denver area who have stopped eating and drinking or stopped taking medications or treatments in order to die because refusing treatment or food and drink are the only things legally authorized in Colorado. Four of them had ALS. I have one client right now who has Parkinson’s and is planning to do something in the near future.”
Lynn finds her work with C&C rewarding because it gives her a platform to voice her concerns about the current state of end-of-life care. “It seems like many areas of medicine have gotten to the point where they want to keep people alive just because they can keep them alive” she says. “I certainly don’t want to be kept going on a ventilator or even with medications . My kids have known that since I started working for hospice. I’ve made sure everyone in my family has advance directives. My mother had a much easier death two years ago – she lived to be 98 – because she had planned everything ahead of time. I just want people to have a choice. That’s what I’ve been working toward all along – making sure people have a choice at the end of life.”