I know it sounds morbid but you need to start early and have a plan, a public plan. End of life issues and other hard topics like dealing with a loved one with severe dementia always is a heart breaking. It is an emotional time for all involved. For the person affected, it can be debilitating and emotionally crippling to the point that what little time they have can be robbed of joy and the remaining peace that could have been had. Not all of this can be prevented. A lot of it can be mitigated drastically by future planning and vocal, paper, and legal documentation in a wide dissemination of information.
As a health care worker, I see folks come into the various facilities all of the time and they are unprepared for what they face. Decisions, finances, assistance, beliefs etc all come into play. Their families are also unprepared, and emotions run high on all sides. If you love your family, each of you should prepare as much ahead of time as you can. This can be done in a variety of ways and over time if you start early. I’ve listed some ideas to help you get started.
First, you should have a frank discussion with your significant other and other close family members and friends about your needs and wishes in various hypothetical situations (tubes, wires, measures to keep you alive if your brain works and if it doesn’t. No one can read your mind, and fights always ensue over what is to happen if you haven’t made yourself clear. Someone will always end up holding the bag you left behind.
Second, you each (adults) should have an advanced directive and someone named as an authority (POA) for medical permissions in the case you are incapacitated or no longer able to make informed decisions on your own. These things should be updated at least annually, and if you’re in a precarious situation medically, or have been diagnosed with a cognitive impairment, probably more often like every six months to even quarterly if things change. Have the paperwork and copies in more than one location, (home, office, medical records, and family members entrusted to make decisions for you if needed), and again ensure that your decisions are known to those who need to know.
The thing is, you don’t want others making your decisions for you. You want to spend your time enjoying what you can, and allowing those around you the protections of knowing your wishes. This does good things for a family as then they are free to be who they are supposed to be to you, it allows them to grieve instead of trying to make decisions that will be second guessed by others. It allows you to still have some say in your life at a time when choices are severely curtailed due to impairments.
Thanks for listening! Next time we’ll talk about the challenges that physical impairments can bring when trying to go home from the hospital. Please note, the opinions stated here are just that, opinions.
My qualifications for the opinions stated are: I work in a variety of hospital settings, I suffer from a sometimes debilitating set of my own medical issues, and I have family members who have to face these issues and have had to face these issues in the past. By no means is this article intended to take the place of legal or professional advice. It is intended to get you thinking about what you would want, and make sure you are preparing financially, emotionally, and legally when you might have otherwise ignored the issue.