Working as a doctor, I have seen first hand what happens when we don’t face up to our mortality.
One night when I was on duty a 95 year old gentleman came into our hospital with the ‘flu. He had already decided, along with his GP to cease all his medications and prepare to die, living out his days with pain relief when needed. He got the ‘flu from visiting his wife who is living in a dementia care facility. He was brought by ambulance to the hospital (his children rang the ambulance because they wanted him taken to hospital. ) He spent about one week on intravenous antibiotics, then finally was discharged home on oral antibiotics which he had previously indicated to his GP he did not want, but did not say that to the doctors in the hospital.
During that week in hospital he could not visit his wife- who knows how she felt? He was visited by his busy family only once or twice before he went home, weakened, after a difficult week of disturbed sleep, communal toilets, needles most mornings, canulas in his arm, catheter in his penis, bland hospital food and with a prescription for antibiotics that he didn’t want to take, and may well give him diarrhoea if he did take them.
And, he missed out on visiting his wife.
Would it have been okay to NOT take him into hospital and let him die at home from the ‘flu? How could the family have decided to do that? He had not told his children about the conversations he had had with his General Practitioner. His General Practitioner could not tell the children his wishes (confidentiality)
So- communication is necessary. And early communication.
Talk to your family about what you want. Make it clear you want to tell them. Ask your parents what they want. Make it clear you want to know.
Use www.touchstonelifecare as a conversation starter, a decision maker and a way to share your thoughts, even and especially if talking is too hard. It is so much better to have early discussions with loved ones, and to make space in your life to say your goodbyes, your “Thank you”s, your “Please Forgive Me”s and your “I Forgive you”s.
In these days of amazing medical treatments we can be overwhelmed by the choices and technology available. We often say ‘leave it up to the doctors/experts/anyone else’.
But don’t let decisions get made for you by others. Don’t let decisions made by default.
Doctors do not like over treating, but without clear directives from you, they may have to.
Yes, it’s hard to know what you want. So use our world first questionnaire as a starting point. Even if you’re not sure what you want. You can always change your mind at any time.
Having an Advance Care Plan, discussed in advance with your trusted circle will change the way you live now as well as later. It will completely change your life.