If we talk about dying, death or even make our advanced directives and a will then it must mean that we are going to die---soon.
My husband and I were updating our wills before leaving on a long trip. Even with the end of life work that we do (this is a family business) our daughters, each individually, at different times said, “Is anything wrong?” You ARE planning on coming back?” “You and Dad are fine, right?”
End of life planning puts us in touch with our mortality. It is scary and uncomfortable so we avoid dealing with it.
It is not a psychic warning, a premonition of coming death, to think about and talk about what happens when it is our time to approach death.
It is common, practical sense. It is taking care of those we care about. Most importantly it is taking care of ourselves. It is making sure we will live the way we want until our last breath.
Most Americans when asked say they want to die at home, in their own bed. They want to have an open, honest conversation with their physician and they don’t want to suffer or die in pain. That being said, most Americans die in a hospital or nursing facility. Too many have artificial feeding beyond the point of feeding being helpful. Again, too many spend the last year of their life receiving extensive “treatments”, in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities and end up in an ICU attached to a ventilator.
Why is this happening? In part because people are not making their end of life wishes known to their family and/or physician. They have no advance directive in place, have not had the “at the end of life this is what I want talk”.
With no Advance Directive in place or talked about, significant others are given the task of making decisions based on the emotion of the moment. “I don’t want to lose Mom so we will do everything we can to keep her here” thoughts and actions. Selfish, yes, considering the pain and suffering Mom is being put through for a few more days or weeks of just breathing, but certainly understandable.
We have come to believe the medical establishment can fix everything; that medicine laughs in the face of death. Add to that idea the notion that other people die, not me or anyone close to me, and we have the reason to not stop treatment, to not remove the ventilator, to get that heart started one more time.
What we forget is that everybody dies. Recognizing that fact, the practical action is to make known how we want to die before we are dying. I guarantee that making an advanced directive will not speed up the dying process.
Confused? Overwhelmed? See the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney chapter of my book, THE FINAL ACT OF LIVING. The information there makes this emotional process less daunting.