Conversations about an end of life plan don’t sound like the stuff of holiday blogs, I realize. But tell me, when is the right time for such a talk? As I type, beloved members of my family are navigating these difficult waters. And it makes me mindful that I don’t want there to be any guesswork as to how my life ends.
So, here it is. If my brain isn’t working, and my body relies on machines to function, you have my permission to kiss me, whisper what you want to me, and unplug the machines. If I have a terminal illness, I want to spend my last days surrounded by my loved ones and pets in the comfort of my own home. I want pain relief, to make the last days as comfortable as possible.I want you to accept my decision to reject medical treatments and medications or embrace my choice to try and fight. I’d like to have a view out a window from my bed. I want to hold your hand and tell me it is okay to let go when it’s time. And when I die, so help me God, I’ll haunt you if you harbor any guilt or feeling of responsibility in regards to my passing.
At a recent board meeting for Seattle’s Providence Hospice Foundation, we were joined by the CEO, who shared his thoughts about the future of medical care. As the rest of the medical community spirals into panic mode, touched off by the what ifs of Obamacare, we had a rich conversation about the changing state of medical care. It includes a more compassionate, loving approach to end of life issues – and is driven by the all-mighty dollar.
ICU stays are expensive, and ICU deaths are emotionally and financially bankrupting. Our pocketbooks and commonsense are making for better communication and more intimate care of the ailing. They are leading oncologists to segue into palliative care doctors, trained to treat the whole person, sooner. We are resisting the urge to push the next treatment and the next down the throats of patients. Instead we’re asking about quality of life, goals, choices.
In an article on mercurynews.com, experts assessed the costs of dying. Hospitals are beginning to question whether they are prolonging life or protracting a death. It’s good to hear the medical community thinking in this direction.
So, as unpopular as it may go down, I want you to think about the end of your life. You deserve to choose your path, and now is the time. It is a gift to yourself, and your loved ones. Spare those you love from the experience of trying their best to make decisions for you while they are raw with emotion. If you stay silent, they will have to guess. And that’s no way to finish your beautiful life.