It’s family. We’ve talked all our lives. Around the dinner table, in the car, after school, before and after the landmark events like graduations, marriages, and births, and in the downtime when nothing much is going on except our talk. How can there suddenly be a subject that is so hard to bring up?
And yet family relationships of every flavor – from frank and open to gentle and courteous – often hesitate to address the topic of how we want to spend our last days together.
The Best Time: Before We Have To
As professionals with many years of experience helping families care for relatives who are aging, ill, or disabled, CoxHealth at Home has seen time and again that these talks work best before a crisis forces a family to have them.
The talk is not only easier to have then, but also more productive, as more options are available before a health crisis forces your hand. And people who talk in advance about their end-of-life wishes with family and friends often find that a deeper understanding results. Their relationships and connection can be even more satisfying than before, and a source of even greater comfort. Many say that a rich ending is more likely because love, learning, and insight increase as a result of this talk and the wishes they shared.
From Unthinkable to 5 Simple Questions
The most widely used document to aid discussion of the end of life is offered by a private, non-profit organization called Aging With Dignity. Entitled Five Wishes, it has been called the “living will with a heart and soul.” Five Wishes was written with the help of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law & Aging, meets the legal requirements of 42 states – Missouri included – and is backed by a federal law that requires medical care providers to honor patient wishes as expressed.
Five Wishes guides us gently as we think through questions such as, “Whom do I want to make decisions for me when I can’t?” and, “What kind of medical treatment I want – and don’t want,” and, “What I want my loved ones to know.” Five Wishes is simple and clear, yet detailed enough to serve legally as your advance directive.
Standing with You in These Decisions
As welcome as the agenda provided by Five Wishes truly is, it does not do the job all by itself. To begin with, some of the questions are ones we may never have considered before. Wouldn’t it make sense to have the guidance of people who have helped in this capacity many, many times? And even when completed, your wishes are not empowered until the right people are notified and the documentation goes where it’s needed when the time comes.