Most people are terrified of being forced into a “home” in their old age. They imagine a life in which they are fully aware and able with some minor age related health issues but left alone to rot without visitors or the comforts of home. Most people want to die at home surrounded by familiar surroundings and loved ones. We have all heard stories of an older person making their family promise to never admit them into a nursing home. But a loved one may need that level of care, and well-meaning family members are not always able to provide the needed care. A doctor shares his experience in, When to Ignore a Promise to ‘Never Put Me in a Home’ which ran in the New York Times on November 9, 2015. The article features a patient with a huge bedsore, who had extracted such a promise from her family. The doctor tells the story of the woman whose family tried to care for her at home in accordance with her wishes but was not able to adequately meet her needs leaving her neglected and the family stressed. Such specific directives meant that the family had no flexibility in choosing care options. The doctor discusses the pros and cons of advance directives versus nominating a health care agent to make decisions when you are no longer able too. Another example in the article is the case of the person living happily with dementia who, as a younger person, absolutely rejected all life saving measures: “Do not feed me!” “No spoons! No tubes!” But what if in the future you adore ice cream, wouldn’t you want ice cream to provide happiness at the end of life even if the calories prolong your life a bit?
People are living longer and we are likely to face these challenges as we age, for the sake of your own well-being at the end of life and to alleviate the stress on your family it’s time to think about and talk about these issues. Choosing a healthcare agent is a great start but don’t stop there. The agent needs to truly understand how you see the end of your life so they can make good choices for you. Of course, that means you have to figure it out first.
Authored by Attorney Jennifer Kupiszewski
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