My mother was by all accounts an active, strong and independent woman. Even in her 80s, she drove herself to meet her dates for dinner, so she could make a quick getaway if her love interest wasn’t to her liking.
This same independent and decisive streak was clear when she communicated her advance directive to her children. End of life planning isn’t a topic that anyone looks forward to discussing, but letting us know that her independent nature meant she didn’t want her life to end in a nursing home was important.
Later, when a stroke left her unconscious and in need of 24-hour care, we found that the difficulty of saying goodbye to our mother was eased by the knowledge that honoring her advance directive was the right decision.
An advance directive is an important legal document that communicates your wishes for medical care at the end of your life, yet fewer than 50% of severely or terminally ill seniors have completed an advance directive. While it isn’t always an easy conversation to have, it is important to have discussions when all parties are of sound mind and body, not when your loved one is laying unconscious in a hospital bed.
The decision to remove my mother from a respirator wasn’t an easy decision, but it was made easier with the knowledge that I was carrying out her wishes.
How do you get started on your advance directive? The first step is to start the conversation with a trusted friend or family member about medical interventions you do or do not want. Choose someone you can trust with these difficult decisions, and fill out an advance directive that follows your state laws.
You’ll want to make sure a copy is filed with your primary care physician, with your health care power of attorney and online for electronic access (we recommend U.S. Living Will Registry).