Just about everywhere you look these days you can easily find extremes. Polar opposites, some might say. I’m sure some came easily to your mind as you read those first two sentences. Maybe even some of these:
- Democrats / Republicans
- Liberals / Conservatives
- Pro-Choice / Pro-Life
- Gay Marriage / Traditional Marriage
- Big Government / Small Government
- Socialism / Capitalism
- Black / White
- Atheism / Christianity
When we only ever see the opposing sides of an issue, it can be downright difficult to get people to begin a conversation that might bridge the extremes and facilitate dialogue, understanding, cooperation, and even advocacy.
It’s not very different when talking about advance care planning or “end-of-life” decision-making. Quite often people initially fall into one of two extremes too:
“Do Everything” / “Pull the Plug”
We really need to be talking about what will determine our quality of life as we near our final years, months, weeks, days, and moments. These “all or nothing” statements, that are so frequently uttered when someone in a family asks about care preferences, serve no real purpose. They give no concrete direction to those who will be making decisions on our behalf. “Do everything” begs to be followed with the words “until what/when”. “Pull the Plug” provides no definitive time or circumstance for the actual act.
Can we plan for everything that might occur? No. Can we make plans for situations that may not occur? Sure. Will my family still need to make some decisions for contingencies I have not planned? Probably. What we need to ask ourselves is whether we want our family making decisions based on supposition and conjecture (e.g., if Dad knew he was ‘like this’, would he want “X”) or rather making decisions based on heartfelt, open conversations in which we have shared our decisions and which we direct them to carry out.
Somewhere between “Do Everything” and “Pull the Plug” are many opportunities to start (and continue) discussions based not only on personal values and beliefs but also on what our loved ones tell us they think they will be able and willing to do to help care for us. Relieving the burden of decision-making from our children, our spouses, our family, and our friends is a precious gift we can give those who are trying their best to care for us.
Caring Choices provides the bridge to help families take advantage of the conversational opportunities that exist somewhere in between the extremes.
(c) 2014 Caring Choices