Talking about death and dying is something individuals often want to avoid. Much is involved with the dying process and a “good death” is more likely to occur if you have prepared. There are many definitions of a good death but to me a good death is a death where there isn’t a lot left hanging. Relationships are at peace. Decisions are made as the person dying would have made them. In most situations, that treatment they seek is used to prolong life and is carefully considered when it is prolonging death. I think it is where the individual and their family and friends feel heard and cared for. A good death requires planning.
I fully encourage individuals – of every age- to complete an advanced directive for their state and the 5 Wishes booklet. (For a free download of your state’s advanced directive I found the website http://www.caringinfo.org/stateaddownload and the five wishes can be found at www.agingwithdignity.org/five–wishes.php .
Sometimes individuals don’t want to fill out an advanced directive because they are afraid that they are somehow tempting fate. Unfortunately accidents happen unexpectedly and the aftermath must be dealt with prepared or not
Often people will say “my family will do what they know I want.” Sometimes emotions are a bit unpredictable during stressful times. Even if your wife or son or partner knows your wishes they may try treatments you wouldn’t even have considered if it means not losing you. Also, legally someone will likely be chosen to make decisions to
Some individuals are worried that if they complete advanced directives then health care professionals will stop talking to them and will talk to your medical proxy. This may happen sometimes but if you are capable of making decisions the health care provider should only speak with you and you will make the decisions on your treatment and decide who gets information. Fortunately most health care professionals understand and ensure the patient is making their own decisions. Also, think about what might happen if you do not have advanced directives. Let’s say you do not have a spouse and you have three adult children. One of your children is really involved and takes care of you and you would choose them to be your medical power of attorney. You assume everyone would know that so you don’t put anything in writing. Then, unfortunately, you enter the hospital and are unable to speak for yourself and another child is there. They speak up a lot and the staff gets to know them and decides they should be the medical power of attorney and for what ever reason and the first child, in an effort for peace, doesn’t contest or say anything. Since there are no advanced directives, the second child ends up being the power of attorney and as much as you love them they are not the one you would have chosen to make your medical decisions. Consider completing advanced directives.
I encourage 5 Wishes because it goes beyond the legal power of attorney. (5 wishes is considered a legal document for advanced directives in most states but not all so check before using it as a legal document) It talks about comfort care (do you want pictures of loved ones, do you want your hair washed, do you want to be read to etc.) It also talks about having forgiven those in your life for anything that may still be between them and that they forgive you too. Five Wishes considers the relationships. It also discusses your wishes for your funeral. That’s a whole different topic in itself but rituals and traditions are important to grieving and healing and you have the opportunity before you die to put your wishes. If you are unable to obtain a copy of 5 Wishes or do not want one, consider writing out your wishes about comfort, relationships and memorials so your family/friends can have access to them if you get sick.
The one thing we all have in common is that we all die. Generally we do not get to choose when to die but we can choose to have a “good death.”