Laura Baber, community outreach and program coordinator at Center Communities of Brookline, wants to get the town talking. With funding from the Brookline Community Foundation and Ryan Construction, and in collaboration with community partners, Baber is facilitating “The Dialogue Starts Here: Hello Brookline” events. This isn’t small talk. The goal of the events is to discuss financial and healthcare planning in the event of unexpected incapacitation.
“Everyone 18 and over needs to have a healthcare proxy. It opens up a lot more ways to effectively treat people and to know what their wishes are if they can’t communicate,” says Baber.
A healthcare proxy is someone who can legally make decisions about your healthcare if you’re incapacitated. The idea is that you’ve discussed your wishes with your proxy so they can act accordingly if needed. Healthcare proxies and estate planning aren’t just in case of death; incapacitation can occur temporarily at any age. Baber recommends the Netflix short film “Extremis” which illustrates the importance of a proxy in an emergency.
At the “Hello Brookline” events participants will enjoy light refreshments and mingling before sitting down to play the card game “Hello.” Developed by Newton native Jethro Heiko, “Hello” provides a safe, fun environment to discuss what’s most important. The game provides a booklet of questions like, “If you needed help going to the bathroom, who would you most and least want to help you,” to get the players thinking about their wishes in an emergency. Players go around and can choose to say or not say their answers.
Baber encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to attend this town-wide initiative. “When events are multigenerational, everybody comes at how they feel in a different way,” she says. “It’s been interesting to see how our goals and values and preferences change. I think everyone is also having this experience of slowing things down and connecting with people in a meaningful dialogue.”
Baber says she’s been happily surprised by the conversations resulting from the game. “The first time I played it, I got together with women in my family from 14 to 90 to play, and we got to know each other better,” she says.
The next “Hello Brookline,” which will be on Wednesday, June 27 at the Brookline Bank at Harvard and Beacon Streets; residents can register online. After playing “Hello,” representatives from Brookline Bank will speak about getting your financial affairs organized similarly. Every participant leaves with worksheets and resources for taking next steps. Another dialogue will be hosted at Brookline Booksmith on August 2.
“70 percent of people who played the ‘Hello’ game made an action over the next few months towards healthcare planning,” says Baber. Sometimes all it takes is a better understanding of the process.