Two words that could save you a lot of grief: Advanced directive.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t even follow my own good advice. It wasn’t like I didn’t try, okay. I opened the door to the conversation and just left it hanging wide open.
Yes. Even though I’ve told you adamantly over and over again that you should talk to your loved ones about what their good (or at least ideal) end of life looks like, I didn’t do it.
Two weeks ago, my mom and a catastrophic hemorrhagic stroke. Her blood pressure rose above 250 systolic and her brain turned off.
The very next day she passed.
Monday morning, as I headed out to do my Home Delivered Meals route, I got a call from my mom’s boss telling me to go to the hospital.
She was taking a client to a doctor’s appointment. The doctor’s office saw the signs of the stroke and called 9-1-1. By the time I got to the hospital, her brain had started bleeding.
Almost immediately after the stroke, we were advised to consider hospice. After my experience with Calvin, I knew just exactly what this meant.
All of a sudden, Mom’s life was in *our* hands. Me and my stepdad.
Did she want to die?
Well, my mom did say everyday that she didn’t want to live with the terrible arthritic pain she suffered from.
Still, though, she got up everyday and went to work, muddling through despite the pain, desperate not to let it defeat her. Hell, a box of clothes from Torrid showed up the next day.
I don’t believe my mom wanted to die.
But would she want to live?
We had what the doctors and scans told us. The stroke caused so much damage to her brain, they said if she survived (and those chances were even small) she would never regain the use of her right side or be able to use or understand language ever again.
Meanwhile, her brain was still bleeding, and now affecting the other side of her brain, which regulates our natural organ function.
They wanted to know what we wanted to do. We decided to give my mom a little time to rally if she would, and then make a choice.
Once my stepdad went home the first day to rest and I saw that she was steadily declining, I asked the key question: Was my mom ever going to wake up again?
All signs pointed to no.
I knew my mom wasn’t in there anymore.
In the morning, we made the decision to remove her life support and provide comfort care.
She passed within 20 minutes of them taking out the air tube.
I’m telling you all of this because in the event of a catastrophe such as this, it does not feel good to be guessing.
In a situation like this, you can’t win for losing.
So here I am, once again, telling- no, BEGGING YOU– to have this conversation as soon as you can with the people you love most in your life.
The Center For Practical Bioethics created an amazing resource, the Caring Conversations® Workbook, especially for us. The workbook can guide you, your family and your friends through the process of advance care planning. Please take a look at it, print it out, fill it out for yourself and those you love. The link is https://www.practicalbioethics.org/resources/caring-conversations.html
You have your in. You know me (somehow). Please feel free to use my story as your door opener to this conversation. Simply say something like,
“You know, I know this isn’t easy to talk about… but a friend of mine recently lost her mom very suddenly. I can’t imagine losing you, and I want to make sure I know what you would want in case something ever happened to you.
Do it as quickly as you can. Do not wait or you could be left guessing like we were.
It doesn’t feel good to guess.
P.S. While you’re talking about this, you might as well go ahead and lay out a will. Even if it is a measly word doc or a scribbled on a piece of paper, it is still better than nothing at all.