As I drove to work this morning, I encountered snow-covered roads from the powerful wind gusts that drifted roads closed overnight. Most roads on my journey this frigid February morning were completely covered except for slightly clear tire paths in each lane. To be safe, I steadied my steering wheel against the gusting winds to keep my tires in those already-cleared tracks from travelers who had driven the same path before me. It was harrowing at times with the drifting snow impacting visibility but I knew if I was able to keep my vehicle in those worn paths, I’d have better traction and stability.
I imagine many people drive like me in this kind of weather … slow and steady, staying in the driven paths to avoid slipping and sliding in collections of snow and ice, and staying alert for traffic signals ahead indicating a stop in slippery slush. I also know that often there are others who throw caution to the wind and drive as if the roads are clear. I know this, because they pass me in unplowed passing lanes at unsafe rates of speed and then spatter my windshield with slushy muck that impairs my view. Sometimes I see them further up the road with their vehicle stuck in a ditch.
While driving cautiously this morning in the clear tracks before me, I thought about the trepidation people have about future healthcare choices and decision-making. When my Mom fell ill for the last time, and we started hospice, it felt as though we were blazing the trail anew and we were both fearful of what was ahead. Because we had hospice care for only a short time, we never really had the benefit of spending a lot of time talking with the hospice team who had been down this road before. None of my immediate circle of friends had traveled this road of hospice care and family caregiving before me. There were no “already-cleared tracks” for me to keep my tires in. But 11 years after Mom’s death, when my Uncle Warren needed hospice care, I’d been down that road before and so I had much better preparation for what was ahead.
I sometimes think people are tentative to start conversations because they don’t know what’s ahead. Because they don’t know how to find the already-cleared tracks before them.
Caring Choices has traveled the road of healthcare decision-making with patients and families, and with our own loved ones. We understand the fear of the unknown. We recognize the challenges of having emotional conversations. We also know that having someone along for the ride who is familiar with the road can make a world of difference in the journey.
© 2015 Caring Choices