Choice or Chance: Controlling End of Life Chaos

In a world of uncertainty, we often attempt to control everything we can within our lives; what food we eat, what clothes we wear, who we choose as our spouse, and so on.  We work hard to do the things we want, the way we want them.

If we feel like we are in control of our own destiny, than why do we, as a nation, leave the end of our legacy completely in chance’s hands?  Less than thirty percent of the population addresses advanced directives.  Even fewer seem to have the difficult conversation with a family member.

Specifically after the age of 65, we are playing a game of risk with what happens to us if we have a stroke, fall, or develop Alzheimer’s disease.   We are no longer in control of our fate which can place the burden on a spouse or a child.  Often, the family member designated to make decisions is too emotionally distressed to be offering guidance on another’s life saving measures or lack thereof.

Being proactive and taking control over end of life decisions can reduce stress in an already traumatic situation, reduce family member’s fear of making the “proper” decisions and ensure your final wishes are carried out.  Not sure where to start?  Here are a couple of helpful hints in dealing with advanced directives.

  • Start thinking about advance directives early and give yourself plenty of time to make decisions. Often, people change their mind of what they would want over a period of time so spend time to make a decision you are comfortable with.
  • Initiate the conversation with family. Although it might be a difficult to start, put it into perspective; it’s not more awkward than having the birds and bees conversation with your child.
  • Use a worksheet such as “Five Wishes” to help family members best understand what you would want during end of life care.
  • Fill out advance directives forms such as power of attorney and living will with details of how you would want your end of life care to proceed. Include directives such as if you would want a g-tube if you were aspirating, if you would want CPR, etc.

“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” – William Ernest Henley