Yesterday at a senior forum I attended there was a discussion on communication and what you want to happen when you reach your end of life times. The one absolute certainty in life (taxes aside) is if you are alive today, you will die sometime in the future. Unfortunately our society seems to be in denial about death and just does not want to discuss end of life with family. It is critical that you have discussions with your elder loved ones while they are still able to make sound legal decisions. The fastest growing segment of our population is 80 and older and the current statistic is 1 out of 2 people over 85 will have some form of dementia and will no longer be able to make legal decisions on their own.
A woman in the audience made the point that you not only need to have the discussion, but it needs to be in writing. Her story was she was the caregiver for her mother and she knew what her mother wanted in her final days. When her mother was hospitalized and facing her final days she was following her mother’s wishes not to seek treatment to extend her life but to just keep her comfortable. Her siblings, who were not involved in mom’s care accused her of “killing” their mom by not taking aggressive measures to keep her alive.
Seeing loved ones dying is difficult and we want to keep them with us as long as possible. How we want to spent our end of life times is very personal and everyone should have a written plan that is given to our family giving them permission to follow your wishes.
So how can this be done? There is a document available on-line called “The Five Wishes” That in plain language allows you to state in your own words the following:
• Who you want to make health care decision for you when you can’t make them
• The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want
• How comfortable you want to be
• How you want people to treat you
• What you want your loved ones to know
The Five Wishes document is legal in 42 States and is available at: http://www.agingwithdignity.org/
There is a small cost, $5.00 for a copy, but it will be the best money you will spend to let family and doctors know exactly how you want your end of life to be.
Fortunately for the woman sharing her story, she and her mom had that conversation and because it was in writing, when the siblings saw their mom’s signature on the document they no longer interfered and mom passed peacefully. Go and have that conversation with your loved ones.
Starting this conversation may not be easy, especially if there is resistance. To help those who are planning on or have tried and met resistance, please share your experience on breaking through the first step.