Most of us don’t want to deal with end of life issues. After all who wants to contemplate death and how we’re going to leave the world. If you decide this is your strategy, I encourage you to think again. You might want to think about taking a different action on these five issues.
Understand and communicate the type of treatment you want.
Modern medicine is a marvel. We have found new and novel ways to extend life. Sometimes life extension isn’t really life extension. You might be technically alive, but don’t have the ability to communicate or do what under normal circumstances is considered living.
You do want a health care proxy and other legal documents in place so those who love you and those who are responsible for your care know your wishes. If you want to be kept alive no matter what, communicate that. If you want no life support, communicate that. If you want something in between let others know what’s important for you. Going the next step and explaining why your wishes are important is something I strongly encourage.
Communicate how comfortable you want to be.
When we get into end of life care there are many choices to how comfortable you want to be. I’ve chosen no pain. If I can’t speak for myself, my family knows my wishes and expects that they’ll be followed through.
What about you? Have you communicated with your family about the amount of pain and what type of drugs you want used at the end of your life? There is no need to experience serious end of life pain that is unless you are opposed to the drugs that keep this from happening. Again, the choice is yours.
Let people know how you want to be treated.
This is not only an end of life care issue. You might end up with a disease like cancer. During your treatment there will be times where you might not feel up to talking to people. It’s completely OK for you to let others know that you aren’t wild about trying to be social.
You might not even know how you wanted to be treated as end of life or serious illness gets in the way. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what you think you might like and then talk about this issue with those you love. You need to have this conversation with the person who is likely to be your caregiver. I’m sure he or she would love to know where you stand.
Decide what you want your loved ones to know.
I would love to see you write this down. I remember that I bought a computer for my father and hoped that he would write memories of growing up and anything else that he thought was important. Unfortunately, he never wrote anything. He still alive and there’s hope. My next idea is to use video tape and have him talk to me.
What about you? Do you know what you want your loved ones to know? Have you done anything about making what you want people to know a piece of history? It’s easy enough to do this today. Write it down, record it as a voice message, or make a video. It doesn’t even have to be fancy or well done. I have to think your efforts will be appreciated.
Who is going to make health care decisions for you if you can’t?
This fits in with your health care proxy. In the proxy make sure that you communicate who you want to make decisions if you can’t. Life extension is a gift and at the same time there are times we might want the gift to stop.
You will want to nominate someone to take care of this responsibility for you. You do want to talk with them before they find out through a legal document. Make sure whoever you want to make decisions on your behalf agrees to take this responsibility and do what you want.
These five things are helpful and can make your life more comfortable when getting to the point of making your own decisions is difficult. We’ve put together a variety of reports and workbooks on transition issues in our resource center. To visit our transition resource center, click on the button below.