Mental Illness at the End of Life


This conference will cover topics related to mental health issues at the end-of-life. Specific topics include how to address psychiatric illnesses encountered in hospice and palliative care, end-of-life decision making with people with mental illness, end-of-life care advocacy for persons with advanced dementia, and resources for practitioners in West Michigan who are facing these complex cases.

Conference Objectives:

At the end of this conference, participant should be able to:

  • Recognize psychiatric illness, and why they are commonly encountered in hospice and palliative medicine

  • Highlight common psychiatric disorders' impact on symptom presentation and care delivery

  • Discuss interventions- pharmacological and non-pharmacological to reduce suffering and optimize care

  • Become familiar with communication strategies, behavioral and environmental interventions and medication

  • Summarize the Michigan legal statutes regarding Mental Health Advance Directives

  • Explain the general treatment decisions listed in the Mental Health section of the Making Choices Michigan Advance Directive

  • Make use of Mental Health Advance Directive Guide to assist patients with document completion

  • Identify several community resources for mental health and end-of-life needs

  • Discuss common needs for people with mental illness at end-of-life

  • Describe effective communication methods for discussing end-of-life with clients with mental health issues

  • Recognize signs, symptoms and trajectory of the three stages of dementia

Who Should Attend:

This seminar is designed for: Physicians, Nurses, Social Workers, Counselors, Educators, Psychologists, Hospice Personnel, Clergy, Chaplains, Lay Ministers, and others caring for bereaved people.

This program has been approved for 5.0 Michigan social work CEU's and continuing nurse education (CNE) clock hours. 
***Please bring your license number the day of the event.


8:00 -8:45 am: Registration, Breakfast, Vendors

8:45 - 9:00 am: Welcome, Logistics, Presenter Introduction

9:00 - 10:30 am: Keynote - “When Mental Health Reigns: Providing Effective Care”

  • Dr. Susan Maixner, Associate Professor, University of Michigan, Director of Geropscychiatric Department

10:30-10:35 am: Break, Vendors

10:45am -12:00 pm: Presentation - “Mental Health Durable Power of Attorney”

  • Kevin Hengeveld, MSN, RN, CNL and Nicky Lewis, LMSW

12:00-1:00 pm: Lunch, Vendors

1:00-2:15 pm: Panel -“Community Resources”

  • Dr. Jack Mahdasian, MD,MA -Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

  • David Vanderark, MSN, RN - Mercy Health St. Mary’s Campus

  • Diane Wiersma, MSW - Spectrum Health Hospice

2:15-2:30 pm: Break, Vendors

2:30-3:30 pm: Presentation - “Patient Advocacy with End Stage Dementia”

  • Joy Spahn, Alzheimer’s Association- Greater Michigan Chapter and Carol Robinson, Making Choices Michigan

 3:30-3:45 pm: Closing, Evaluations

About the Speakers:

Keynote Speaker:

Dr. Susan Maixner, M.D. - Associate Professor, University of Michigan, Director of Geropscychiatric Department
When Mental Illness Reigns: Providing Effective Care

Susan Maixner, MD is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Michigan Medicine's Geriatric Psychiatry Program and Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship. She is board certified in general psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry and hospice and palliative medicine. She has been on faculty at the University of Michigan since 1999. She is active in the Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Center's Rinne Lewy Body Dementia Initiative. Dr. Maixner teaches and supervises medical students, psychiatry residents, internal medicine residents, geriatric medicine fellows and geriatric psychiatry fellows in interdisciplinary patient and family centered care settings. As Dr. Maixner's career has progressed, she cultivated an interest in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, becoming board certified in the specialty in 2002.

Additional Presenters:

Kevin Hengeveld, MSN, RN, CNL & Nicky Lewis, LMSW
Mental Health Durable Power of Attorney

Kevin Hengeveld is a Clinical Nurse Leader with the Complex Care Department at Mercy Health Saint Mary's. In this role he provides leadership through data analysis and root cause assessment to those people utilizing hospital based services. Prior to this role, he worked on the Psychiatric Medical Unit for eight years.

Nicky Lewis, LMSW is the Advance Care Planning Coordinator for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Nicky has been in the field of social work for over 15 years. She received both her BS and MSW degrees from Grand Valley State University.

Panel Discussion- Community Resources

  • Ben Jacobs, LMSW, is a Community Social Worker for Faith Hospice. He has nine years of clinical experience in health care with emphasis on older adult and end of life care.

  • Dr. Jack A Mahdasian, MD, MA, is a Psychiatry specialist at Pine Rest Mental Health Services. He attended and graduated from Medical College of Wisconsin in 1991, having over 27 years of diverse experience, especially in Psychiatry.

  • Dave Vander Ark, MSN, RN, has worked for over 35 years in a variety of inpatient and community psychiatric settings. He has had numerous roles ranging from direct care aid to staff nurse to charge nurse to clinical supervisor to educator. He worked for ten years as a staff and charge nurse on the Psychiatric-Medical Unit at Mercy Health Saint Mary's.

  • Diane Wiersma, LCSW, engages in private practice specializing in grief, loss, trauma, mood and anxiety disorders. She is a certified trauma and loss specialist and received her MSW from Western Michigan University in 2004.

Carol Robinson, DNP, RN, CHPN & Joy Spahn, MPA
Patient Advocacy in Dementia: Helping Families and Health Care Providers Honor a Person's Wishes

Carol Robinson is the Community Coordinator for Making Choices Michigan. She has had a varied nursing career in both clinical and administrative leadership positions. Her clinical specialty has focused on adults and children with life-limiting pulmonary disease. She has experience as a family caregiver for a loved one with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

Joy Spahn has degrees in both behavioral science and public health. She has been the Regional Director for the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Michigan Chapter for 13 years with over 40 years’ experience in geriatric care management for persons with dementia and/or chronic mental illness.


Thursday, March 21, 2019 from 8:00am - 3:45pm


Prince Conference Center
1800 E. Beltline SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546


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