What would you do if your mother, father, spouse, or child were dying? Do you know what they would want? – their goals, wishes, and what makes life worth living? Have you shared your own wishes with your loved ones?
Take a moment to ask yourself: what would I want if I could not speak for myself? Do my loved ones know my wishes?
Carol Ford, a retired staff member at Hospice & Palliative CareCenter, saw the importance of asking these questions and helping people make and share their plans. Many people do not share their wishes but we need to change that for the sake of our own loved ones. Carol’s story – about a family in our community – shows how important sharing wishes can be:
One of my most memorable stories is from a lady (I will call her Mrs. Jones) who set up a consult for advance care planning years ago. She said her son and daughter-in-law would come too. When we met at Hospice & Palliative CareCenter, I noted that she was a woman of about 70, in plain dress and quiet in her demeanor.
I asked if there was something in particular that had brought them to this task. She said that a few years ago her husband had a stroke. When it was time to be discharged from the hospital, the doctor asked if she wanted him to remain on a feeding tube. She said yes, but I could tell it was not a matter that was discussed at any length - just a question asked as he was being discharged to the nursing home. Mrs. Jones went to the nursing home every day to visit her husband and the son and daughter-in-law visited often. Mr. Jones never regained consciousness but lived for almost two years after his stroke, dependent on a feeding tube.
“We never want that to happen in our family again," Mrs. Jones said. "We don't want to do that to each other.”
It is clear these decisions can be very hard to make. When we haven’t shared our plans with our loved ones it can create a great deal of distress for them to decide if they are making the right decisions. By sharing our plans for the end of life we can alleviate some of the pain, stress, and guilt our families may experience. By having our wishes honored we can all experience a better quality of life in our last days.
The corresponding video, from ABC News, highlights how important these conversations are.