Final Instructions


Talking about death is not an easy subject and each person handles it in his or her own way. Some people and their families boldly face death head on. Others never want to admit out loud that they are going to die. But there is a middle ground where practical decisions about healthcare and caregiving in the coming months, can be discussed. This is what medical professionals call, “Having the conversation.”

THE CONVERSATION

Since death is a single moment at the end of life—the question is how does your loved one want to live his or her life until that moment. Much of living is out of our control but we can face death on our own terms. We can decide where we would like to live out our days—at home surrounded by family, or in a care facility or hospital. We can decide what we would like to do with those days. We can choose what level of pain medications we would like. We can also determine what kind of procedures we want to prolong our life and what kind we don’t.  And there is a way to
make your wishes legal.

START WITH THE ADVANCE DIRECTIVE:

Doctors and hospitals in many states provide some kind of Advance Directive form. Basically, it covers three important subjects:

  1. What health care instructions do you want to give your physician about treatments, particularly procedures that will artificially prolong your life?
  2. Who will speak for you about those treatments when you can no longer speak for yourself?
  3. Given that“doing nothing” would mean your comfort and care and dignity would be assured, under what circumstance would you choose to forgo tube feeding or life support and be allowed to die a natural death

DO IT NOW

Jahnna and I gathered our husbands and friends and threw an “Advance Directive” party where we filled out forms and appointed our health care representatives. For those of you who are caring for someone who doesn’t have a directive, it’s never too late to fill one out. Here are a few websites where you can find the forms:  www.agingwithdignity.org and www.oregonhealthdecisions.org/ for all of you in Oregon.

—Katie

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