Do you know how you want to live the last year of your life?
If we knew when we were going to die we would be much better prepared. We would know where we want to be living, how much we would need to save, who to be with, what to say, when to say goodbye. Unfortunately, few of us know when we’re going to pass and that makes our preparations much more complicated. We are forced to use our crystal balls to predict the future and those crystal balls are cracked and cloudy.
Preparing for the inevitable is especially important in two particular areas: estate planning and end-of-life care. Estate planning receives a lot of attention and has an entire industry built around it. Equally important, end-of-life care is all too often ignored. Often I hear and read stories about the medical establishment doing things to patients rather than for them. Please read this poignant piece by Dr. Profeta, an emergency room physician.
As a physician, I understand why end-of-life care is not often addressed. It is difficult to consider our own demise or the demise of our loved ones. Also, it is something we feel we can put off until tomorrow or into the future. Professionally, I have become very comfortable with death, but personally I also chose to procrastinate planning my end-of-life care. Even as I was counseling my patients to prepare, I didn’t heed my own advice. It took a major health event to spur me into action. Only then did my wife and I make the appropriate preparations for the eventuality that we all face.
Making those preparations provided me with an inner satisfaction that I did not anticipate and removed one stressor that was lurking in the back of my mind.
Talking with your physician about your desires and expectations, particularly in the context of medical care is important. Without that knowledge your medical team may do things to you that may not be congruent with your intentions. A little bit of planning and frank discussions with your physician and loved ones can help you avoid this issue.
I encourage you to review this link describing Goals of Care discussions. Linking your personal goals to medical Goals of Care is a good way to ensure your wishes are respected. Let’s make sure we do things for you and not to you.