Tina Shivley, Director of Community Service, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan
Most of us have thought about our wishes for care at the end of life. But how many of us have shared our thoughts with those close to us?
If we want our wishes for our health care to be respected, then we need to discuss them with those we love and write them down in an advance directive.
Decisions about end-of-life care are very personal and are based on our past experiences, our values and our beliefs. It takes courage to talk about these issues, even with those closest to us. However, talking about our wishes can be truly meaningful and provide comfort for everyone involved.
First, you have to start the conversation. It may take more than one talk to create a shared understanding of what is most important to you. Family conflict and uncertainty at the end of life are not unusual, but with open communication and careful planning, your family can be prepared to respond to a crisis, knowing that they are honoring your final wishes. And you can change your wishes if your situation changes.
The final step is to share your advance directive with your primary care physician, so he or she understands your wishes and can work with you as your health changes. Physicians can also help answer any questions you have about medical interventions and options. Having your advance directive on file is added insurance that, in an emergency, your wishes will be followed.
So take the first step and start the conversation. It may well be one of the most important discussions you and your loved ones will ever have.