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Trinity Lutheran to hold end of life issues workshop

Gen Keranen and Richard Bentrup are both members at Trinity Lutheran Church in New York Mills and will be part of the "At Journey's End" workshop to be held April 18 at the church.

Death isn't something most people like to talk about. We know it's going to happen but there's generally more pleasant things to discuss over coffee or at the dinner table.

On April 18, Trinity Lutheran Church in New York Mills will host a workshop to help people prepare better for the inevitable. "At Journey's End", a workshop explaining end of life issues will feature presenters offering tools and advice in the legal aspects of death related issues, as well as funeral planning, living wills and other health directives.

Gen Keranen, Trinity parish nurse, said her and Pastor Jon Haakana talked about end of life issues for a couple years and have now put together the workshop intended to help people be better prepared, and help families get a better idea of what a person may want when end of life nears.

"Life and death are certain," Keranen says. "A lot of us don't like to talk about this stuff but a lot of families don't know the issues a person wanted."

Haakana says the workshop will give families a chance to better understand some of the issues they might face with a loved one's death.

The workshop is open to the public and starts with registration and coffee at 8:30 a.m. Haakana will present a welcome and devotion at 8:45 a.m., followed by wills and estate planning by Susan E. Johnson-Drenth, who has a BS degree in Business Administration, AD in Nursing and Law degree. Johnson-Drenth is the first Certified Elder Law Attorney in North Dakota and northern Minnesota.

Johnson-Drenth's practice areas include elder law, estate planning, probate, probate litigation, guardianships, and trust law including special needs trusts for the disabled. She gives frequent presentations on all areas of elder law and has written numerous articles on elder law topics for newspapers, magazines and newsletters.

Richard Bentrup, also a member of Trinity, is a licensed social worker at Tri-County Hospital with 40 years experience in health care and has held many leadership positions. He will be discussing health directives and living wills, which are documents that let families and physicians know what kind of medical care is desired when an individual is no longer able to make decisions on such matters.

Bentrup is on the health and wellness committee at the church and has talked about events helpful to the congregation, including this workshop. He has done an estimated 800 living wills since 1989.

"The idea was there and it was just a matter of getting everybody together and pushing ourselves to doing it," Bentrup said of helping put the workshop together. "Hopefully this will be inviting to people and will give them the information they need."

The event is free to the community with the help of Thrivent Financial, and is intended for elderly people and their families.

"These are issues we felt were important. Things people aren't always willing to openly talk about," Bentrup said. "We want to give them the tools they need."

Bentrup added there are two areas of advanced directives important to families. One is to list someone that would act on your behalf when you're not able in the medical decision-making process. The second area has to do with a person's wishes, or what they want, as far as medical directives like feeding tubes and DNR's (Do Not resuscitate) orders. Bentrup says these are important to be placed in medical charts.

Greg Karvonen, funeral director and owner of Karvonen & Son Funeral Home in New York Mills, will also be a presenter. Karvonen is a graduate of Mid-America College of Funeral Service in Jeffersonsville, Indiana. He will also answer questions people may have with pre-planning, church service, burial options, and cremation.

The workshop is April 18, 8:30 a.m. to noon. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. Johnson-Drenth will speak 9-9:45 a.m. Bentrup will follow with health care directives 9:45-10:30 a.m. From 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., Karvonen will talk about funeral pre-planning, followed by Trinity funeral guidelines by Pastor Haakana.

Questions and handouts will be at 11:30 a.m., and Haakana will present the workshop's closing at 11:45 a.m.