National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16. You can honor it by having “the talk.”
“The talk’ is an open, honest conversation with your loved ones about your end-of-life preferences. It isn’t an easy talk to have, which is why so many of us put it off. I remember my mother talking to me after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. My older brother and I walked her into her house after the doctor’s appointment when we learned the horrible news. He left to get the many prescriptions filled, and as much as I didn’t want to, my mom and I had the talk. I tried to put it off, feeling slightly dazed with the enormity of the news. But she insisted. She told me her last wishes, and we sat and cried together.
The talk consists of answering questions like: Do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops? How do you feel about feeding tubes or other interventions? Do you wish to donate your organs? Have you signed an advance directive? It may not be the easiest of topics but it’s a critically important one. The reality is, we all will die. And I for one would like to control my own end-of-life wishes and spare my husband and son from making those difficult choices for me. My mom gave me that gift that night at her kitchen table. I didn’t realize it then, but her words and directions would guide us during her difficult last days. I was confident in the decisions that my four brothers and I made on her behalf, because we had “the talk” that I had wanted to put off.
The talk is more important now than ever before. We’re living longer, thanks to amazing advances in medicine. For a critically ill individual, technology can press air into ailing lungs or pump blood through a failing heart. Sometimes, artificial healthcare interventions can overrun the natural capacity of the human body and spirit. Each of us should reflect on that and speak for ourselves whether that’s the type of death we want.
I’ve held the hands of loved ones in their final days, and I’ve had the comfort and peace of mind of knowing their wishes. Do you? If you don’t, then have the talk. The National Healthcare Decisions Day web site
offers resources to make the conversation easier. You owe it to your loved ones, and you owe it to yourself.
Don’t put off the talk. I’m glad I didn’t.