Exercise One

Because you should consider the unpredictable and sometimes cruel possibilities. Take a moment to think about the following scenarios.

  • You’re in a hospital with a life-threatening illness that has left you unable to speak. Does anyone know your end-of-life wishes?
  • Your mother slipped into a coma, and the hospital staff needs to determine her level of care. Are you prepared to make those decisions? Has she told you her wishes?
  • Your elderly father has become frail and increasingly forgetful. He’s still making his own health-care decisions, but you may have to take over soon. Do you know the details of his medical conditions? Are you prepared to make healthcare decisions for him?
  • You are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, and you know that you will reach a point when you won’t be able to make medical choices. Who will make decisions for you? Do they understand your wishes?

Exercise Two

Because no one likes to think about the end-of-life, particularly their own, but you must. Letting your family and healthcare providers know what interventions you would or would not want is critical. Ask yourself:

  • How important is it, if I’m in pain, that I be comfortable and suffer as little as possible?
  • How important is it that I live as long as possible?
  • How important is it that I avoid being attached to machines and tubes?
  • How important is it that I respect the wishes of other family members regarding my care?
  • How important is it that I am involved in making decisions about my care?

Exercise Three

Because if you become too sick to speak, who will? How will you share your wishes with them? Make sure someone is empowered to make end-of-life decisions on your behalf, follow these three steps:

Think about who would be willing and able to make end-of-life decisions for you and then arrange time to talk with them.

  • Consider who else would you want to be present for this conversation. You may want your doctor, lawyer, or a clergyman present.

  • Pick a good time to talk with loved ones – for example, a family gathering, over a meal, or before a trip.

  • Pick a good place to talk. Where will everyone be most comfortable? At the kitchen table? At a restaurant? During a walk or drive?

  • Review what you want to be sure to say. Make a list the most important things you want to talk about during your conversation.

Talking about end-of-life issues is never easy. Here are a few tips to help breakthrough the resistance, get the conversation started.

  • Be reassuring: "My health is good now, but I want to talk to you about what I’d want if I was sick and needed you to make decisions for me."

  • Use an example: "Remember my friend Frank who was in a coma? I wonder if there was any argument about keeping him on that ventilator?"

  • Blame someone else: "My lawyer wants me to make an advance care plan if I get too sick to make decisions for myself. Will you help me?"

  • Use a news item: "Did you hear about the woman whose family couldn't agree on her care? Made me realized I hadn’t told you my wishes. 

Writing your end-of-life wishes down assures others they can act on your behalf. Complete the following documents, (which are usually state-specific) then ask two people over the age of 18 to witness; notarize it and make copies for family and proxies. Keep originals in an obvious, safe place in your home and let everyone know where they can be found.