Well, we’ve missed two of our weekly blogs. Life intervened. Two weeks ago on a Saturday morning I awoke with what felt like razor blades in my throat. Couldn’t talk; could barely swallow. Spent the weekend that way and then went to my doctor on Monday who said it was just the “viral crud” going around. I didn’t buy that since I know my body and I know that I’m prone to sinus and ear infections … but figured I’d let it run its course. Then, another life intervention, over the next 36 hours, I had fevers (which I almost NEVER get) and other (more gross) symptoms, so I placed a call to my doctor’s office and received a boatload dose of antibiotics for 10 days. I’m feeling much better now!
Life intervention two: This past Tuesday, Jim was involved in a motor vehicle accident when a young woman rear-ended him in the Subaru while he was waiting to make a left turn into his office parking lot. Fortunately he wasn’t seriously hurt (bruised back with some spasms – muscle relaxants are interesting!) Car has some damage, but it’s fixable. Just goes to prove – you never know what will happen to throw your life out of whack for a bit.
This week, I had the pleasure of providing two educational sessions for family and community members at work. The presentation was titled “Decision Making for a Loved One” and I was happy to see that 20 people attended since this is usually a daunting topic that keeps people away. Our family members at the nursing home where I work are awesome. They are actively involved and engaged in the care of their loved one (most typically a parent). We talked a lot about how life intervenes and throws changes at us that we’re not really prepared for.
We had some fruitful discussion about the legal powers that documents like a General Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney bestow and how those legal powers don’t really help all that much when you’re standing around the bed of a loved one trying to figure out what to do. We spent a lot of time talking about talking. How having conversations, about our values and beliefs and the people we want around us when life intervenes, are so much more valuable to surrogate decision-makers than the possession of a piece of paper. Many were surprised to learn that documents are sometimes ignored in favor of people standing around the bed – whether they are the ones with the legal authority to make decisions or not.
There were some tears in the sessions when we talked about the guilt felt when placing mom or dad in a nursing home, or making some other decision with which adult children struggle. We talked about how difficult these conversations can be to start, but I assured everyone that once they get past the first conversation, the next ones seem to be easier. For some in the room, it seemed comforting to know that someone else (me, and the other family members) were going through similar things or have already walked the path of decision-making for a parent through the end of life.
Life intervenes in many ways. Sometimes good things happen (like putting me in my current job to help others my age deal with decision-making for their elderly parent); and sometimes bad (like a sinus infection, fender bender, or something much more traumatic).
Before life intervenes with a medical crisis, traumatic accident or terminal diagnosis, talk to people you love. Talk about what matters to you. What gives your life meaning and purpose? What kinds of symptoms are you willing to “live” with? What abilities can you not live without? Who do you want making decisions for you? Can they make the tough decisions? Can they advocate for you counter to physicians who may suggest a different path?
Caring Choices understands that these conversations are challenging, and making decisions for someone else can be difficult. But we also understand that fear and guilt from decision-making can be lessened when we’ve had conversations and prepared our loved ones with the knowledge and courage to do what we ask. We can help you start talking. It’s never too early, but it can be too late.
© 2015 Caring Choices