Do you know what you want the doctors to do if you were in a coma? Or how your treatment should proceed if you have a terminal illness and can no longer make decisions for yourself? And if you know, do your loved ones? The truth of the matter is, most of us avoid making plans for those end of life situations. After all, no one wants to think of getting sick and dying. But in our experience here at Piedmont Home Health, everyone benefits when a person’s wishes are made known. It not only helps bring peace of mind to the person making the plans, but can also help ease the stress and burden placed on loved ones when those situations occur.
It’s never too early to have the conversation and draw up a health care power of attorney, a health care agency document and a living will. If you’re ever in a serious accident, have surgery or get a serious illness, you will need these documents. And if you’re helping care for an aging parent or loved one, be sure they have these documents on file with their primary care physician.
Here are a few ideas to get the conversation started:
1. Talk about your favorite hymns. Hymns and prayers are often a part of memorial services. Start out with asking your loved one their favorite hymn, and why they like it. Then offer your favorites, and mention you would like them at your funeral. It is relatively easy to work the conversation from making wishes known about a funeral service to talking about other things like life support and power of attorney.
2. Let Hollywood help. Watching a move together might help introduce the topic. The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, is a good one to try. Labeled both a drama and a comedy, the plot follows two men who escape from a cancer ward for a last hurrah-type road trip.
3. Use real-life examples. You might say, “Remember how hard it was for Aunt Susie’s kids to decide whether to agree to a feeding tube or not?” Remind your parents about the stress of that situation, and use it to show how planning ahead and having the conversation early can help keep a bad situation from becoming worse.
Once you’ve had the conversation and have some clear plans laid out, it’s time to create the documents and get them on file. We’re lucky to have a great resource in our area, Got Plans. This organization not only has a wealth of information on their website, but they also conduct workshops around the Triad to help people get started with making end of life plans. You can also talk with your caregiver from Piedmont Home Health, who will be glad to get you the information you need to get all your affairs in order.