End-of-life considerations can be hard, but necessary. My friend’s dad died today. He was 89, and he had contracted the Coronavirus. Before that, he had several other chronic health issues. He had also been a widower for almost four years. These details needed consideration as the family decided on a course of action.
Dad had stated he wanted to die. This stated desire may have been fear, depression, or a sincere wish. I’m not sure if they asked him if he was depressed or scared. Our society is not good at facing death. We deny it, pretend it’s not happening, or demand the doctor fix the problem.
Sometimes, it’s essential to take a day to ask yourself and your loved one some critical questions. In my friend’s example, I think asking dad why he was making the statement he wanted to die was crucial. The answer likely would have led them to make the best decisions possible.
When we’ve been sick, tired, and without our spouse for a long time, it’s not surprising that the fight to go on is gone. I honestly think my dad gave up and didn’t bother to tell us. I’ve talked a lot about how he refused help with mom, and I think it took a toll he could never have expected.
My dad had a typical medical crisis, and had I understood what was happening with him; I would have skipped taking him to the hospital and called hospice instead. That’s easy to say afterward, but it’s important to discuss now so others can make better choices.
None of us is ready for the day we have to say goodbye to a loved one. However, we owe it to them to do all we can to make their last days, weeks, or months the best they can be. Quality of life is much more critical at this stage than adding to the quantity.
Making this a more manageable process starts with conversations with each other. Knowing the wishes of your family members should remove all questions. This knowledge is vital when we’re dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Talk about what we may and may not want at the end of our lives long before we get there. Having these conversations, even briefly, should ensure that everyone understands your wishes.
Write It Down, But Talk Too
It wouldn’t hurt to put your end-of-life wishes in writing, but I can tell you, that isn’t always enough. My dad specifically didn’t want to go back on dialysis. His doctor kept telling my sister that his memory would improve as the dialysis cleared the toxins from his system. His memory got a bit better, but it was never “back to normal.” Instead of honoring my father’s advanced directive, his doctor told me I would have to transport him to his dialysis appointments, sit with him, and then take him back home. When I reminded her that this wasn’t what he wanted and that we should consider hospice, she hung up on me.
So much for an advanced directive having the final say for you. Had I not known dad’s wishes, I can only imagine the situation we’d all have been living in. Telling this story helps me illustrate a couple of things; the importance of your family knowing your wishes and understanding what quality of life means to you.
Because I knew what my dad did and didn’t want, I was confident in my decision to put him in hospice care. It was the right thing to do for all of us. Knowing what his body was going through earlier would have likely made his last few months much more pleasant. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to make that happen.
When my friends told me about their dad, I tried to find a kind way to suggest they go straight to hospice care. Understanding that it wasn’t up to me, I chose the path of asking questions that I hoped would lead to the discussion I felt they should have with each other. I wanted their dad to have as peaceful end-of-life journey as possible.
Allow Family The Knowledge to Choose
I think my friend felt as I did, but it wasn’t his decision alone. Having been the medical power of attorney for both parents, I understood the reasoning for not having both daughters with that decision-making control. Even knowing my father’s wishes, knowing his memory would never go back to normal, choosing hospice care for him was hard. While I didn’t have to get my sister’s blessing, I did make sure she agreed with the choice.
I have upcoming episodes on early grief, palliative care, and end-of-life considerations. Having lived through many difficult challenges in 2020, I knew how important it would be to have these conversations. I hope that you’ll get a better understanding of the process by hearing the discussions and can move forward with confidence.
End-of-life doesn’t have to be scary or difficult if we know all we can about our loved ones, the dying process, and how to love and comfort them through the transition.
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