I can tell you that I’ve had that conversation hundreds of times with individuals, couples and families in 22 years of working with people nearing the end of their lives. Sometimes that conversation was held at the family’s insistence and sometimes at the behest of a dying patient whose family was angry and could not agree on end-of-life care for a parent. It is a conversation that is never easy.
Once I had lived through my husband’s death within hospice care, I decided to devote at least some of the time I had left assisting families facing the same issues: When do I want to deny life support? Who makes that decision? Is a family member always the right choice for Health Care Agent? At what point do they become involved?
I started out by giving talks to senior centers, Rotary and Lion’s Club meetings. What I learned is that no matter how good the advance directive instrument was, people
were not filling them out. Over time I learned that people do not want to talk about this with their loved ones. Sometimes the documents confused them so they just put the
instrument down and never finished. In the rare instance when they were completed, the documents were put in a safe deposit box, where they did no good.
As a board member of Family Health Care Amigos, as soon as we moved into a space which would afford the client privacy, I began offering one-on-one sessions on filing out The Five Wishes. This document was created by an attorney who worked for 12 years with Mother Teresa’s hospices in North America. I chose this format because it covers client concerns about their emotional, psychological and spiritual needs at the end of their lives; not just medical decisions.
Appointments are available one Wednesday afternoon per month at the Patagonia Public Library by calling 520.394.2010 or every Monday morning at The Lending Shed by calling 520.256.7213. Appointments take an hour to an hour and a half and are free of charge to the client.