If asked, most of us would say that it’s very important for our loved ones to know our end-of-life wishes. However, many of us have not expressed our own wishes or had that conversation with those we love about theirs.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ellen Goodman found herself in that situation at the end of her mother’s life. “We talked about everything except one thing: how she wanted to live at the end of her life . . . Once or twice when we heard about a relative or friend who was comatose or on a feeding tube, she would say, ‘If I’m like that, pull the plug.’ But, of course, when the time came there was no plug. In my mom’s last years of life, she was no longer able to decide what she wanted for dinner, let alone what she wanted for medical treatment. So the decisions fell to me. Another bone marrow biopsy? A spinal tap? Pain treatment? Antibiotics? I was faced with cascading decisions for which I was wholly unprepared. After all the years I had written about these issues, I was still blindsided by the inevitable.”
After her experience with her mom, Goodman co-founded The Conversation Project, a national campaign with this goal: “to make it easier to initiate conversations about dying, and to encourage people to talk now and as often as necessary so that their wishes are known when the time comes.”
All adults are encouraged to have these conversations. And, it’s important to remember that persons with dementia are often still able to express their wishes when offered the opportunity.
Beginning these conversations can make the difference between a good death and a hard death. We can also do much to unburden those we love from having to guess about our wishes. Have you begun the conversation with those you love?
For some help beginning your conversations, see more at The Conversation Project website: www.http://theconversationproject.org.
For more information on Late Stage Care, please visit: http://alz.org/care/alzheimers-late-end-stage-caregiving.asp