Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
How to Celebrate Your Life by Talking About Death
Ok, I’m sure you are skeptical after reading the title but hear me out.
Our society fears death due to a plethora of causes, but studies show that fear is a result of uncertainty. Woody Allen comically stated, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Chances are, you may be one of the 23% of Americans who think if you don’t talk about death, it won’t happen to you. But consider this: if you avoid talking about your end-of-life wishes, a complete stranger could make decisions for you if you lose the ability to speak. Not your kids, or your spouse, or your best friend of 40 years.
Advance directives are legal documents stating what you want and how you want it in the event you lost the ability to communicate due to a serious illness or injury. I think most people would prefer a loved one to handle their health care, yet approximately 77% of American’s are unknowingly trusting someone they have never met by failing to complete an advance directive.
January is Celebration of Life Month. To assist with the advance directives discussion we would like to show how this conversation should not revolve around fearing death, but celebrating LIFE. Here are the 5 recommended steps of Advance Care Planning:
In the event you could not speak for yourself, think about the kind of medical treatment you don’t want. Feeding tube? CPR? Emergency surgery? These are just a few examples of life-sustaining treatments you may be forced to receive if you fail to complete or update an advance directive. Now after step 1, celebrate the fact that these decisions are not necessary on this specific day. Celebrate your beating heart. Celebrate the ability to feed yourself. Celebrate every breath you take on your own without the need of a ventilator.
Think about what you want your loved ones to know in regards to your emotional, physical and spiritual treatment. For example, if you couldn’t communicate what type of music, stories or scripture would you like to hear? Now after step 2, celebrate the ability to listen to your favorite song, see a smile on someone’s face, or feel a handshake as you meet someone new today.
Chose the person you want to make medical decisions for you when you can’t. This person is called your health care advocate or durable power of attorney for healthcare. A quality advocate will have the following characteristics: legally competent and over 18, readily available at any time of the day, a level-headed individual with good decision-making abilities and someone able to follow through with your wishes, even when tough. Now following step 3, celebrate the decision of choosing ONE person in your life to become your advocate. Chances are, you had to consider multiple people that would give their world to you, in the event you needed them!
Call Emmanuel Hospice for a free “Five Wishes” advance directive form. Our team helps facilitate advance care planning conversations almost every day of the year. We have found the Five Wishes form to be a comprehensive, easy-to-read guide. You don’t need a lawyer, but it helps to have someone guide you through the “do’s and don’ts” of advance care planning. We are here to help, but if you want to navigate this journey on your own, we recommend the website theconversationproject.org.
Take a deep breath and realize the one life you have to live is pretty darn good. Regina Brett is the author of a book called God Never Blinks, and she has a saying that I take with me every day: “If we all threw our problems in a pile, and saw everyone else’s, we would take ours back.”
If you make it to step 5, you have just completed the most difficult part of Advance Care Planning! This process is designed to be a gift to your family and friends which removes the guesswork out of navigating health care decisions through a possible crisis. We spend days, weeks and months preparing for house fires or car accidents through selecting insurance providers. That does not mean a disaster will level your house because you just discussed and decided on insurance coverage. Consider advance care planning as a “healthcare fire drill,” designed to help you prepare for the worst so the celebration of life can always happen! May God bless your journey and remember, we are here to help!