Did you talk to your parents yet? For that matter, have you talked with your own spouse and children? Do they know your wishes? Do you know your wishes? Is any of this in writing?
Today, if you do nothing else, fill out your advance directives. Encourage your parents, especially if they are elderly, to put their wishes in writing also. These are simply forms that tell medical providers what you want done in case you are unable to tell us yourself due to illness or injury. It is planning for the inevitable in advance. A living will is your directive on what you want done in regard to life-sustaining measures such as resuscitation, machines and tubes. A surrogate designation is a person you have chosen to make those decisions for you in the event a decision is needed. It should be someone you trust and that you have told your wishes to. If it is your desire that everything be done to keep you alive as long as possible, they need to know that. If you desire is comfort measures only, they need to know that too.
You do not have to have these forms drawn up by an attorney because there are free ones all over the internet. You should however, know the laws in your country or state and you might wish to discuss it with an attorney, especially if you are not familiar with these concepts.
You can start here: Advance Directives.
They have downloadable, state specific, forms as well as more information on the subject. Your local hospital and hospices will also have information on advance directives and can talk to you more about them. You owe it to the people you love to do this one thing if you have not done so already. These simple pieces of paper can also save a lot of family squabbling and heartache. You would be surprised how often people respond completely out of character when faced with the death of a loved one.
Another form that many people are turning to is called, Five Wishes. It has been approved in all but eight states. This is gaining in popularity and because of the terminology, wishes as opposed to will, people are more open to using this. You can find more information at Five Wishes. Five Wishes addresses your persona, emotional, and spiritual needs as well as your medical wishes. It is written in simple to understand language and personally I think it is a wonderful tool that everyone should at least look at using. There is a nominal charge ($5.00) for the form but you can download a sample to see what you are getting.
As a caregiver, you should bring up the subject of advance directives with your loved one. They have the right to express their wishes and in fact may wish they could but they are afraid of upsetting you. They know they are ill, they know they feel bad and they usually know they do not have long left to live; just as my patient did.
He wanted to talk about it. He had questions and he wanted to know what would be done and what choices he had. When he asked that question of me and I answered him, he and his wife were able to have a dialog and instead of spending his remaining few months tiptoeing around each other, they spent it just enjoying what time they had left.
In case you are wondering how I answered that question I will tell you. I wish I could take credit with the words that came out of my mouth that day but the truth is, they were given to me a few years earlier when I was going through my own struggle of dealing with so many of my patients dying.
Everyone has their own beliefs about life and death and I do my best to respect them all and not shove mine down anyone’s throat. Because I knew this man and his family, I knew I could say what I did.
I looked him in the eye and said, “I don’t know what it’s like to die and I’ll do my best to make sure you don’t suffer. But someone once told me that every time someone you love dies, they take a piece of you with them to be closer to God.”