Read this Periscope for a quick introduction to the Lunch & Learn given by Kim Callinan, President of Compassion and Choices and national expert on how to create an elegant and dignified end-of-life plan.
If you allow your loved ones to avoid a conversation about their end-of-life plan, you are making their journey more difficult than it needs to be.
Many of us say something like “just shoot me” or worse. But in the real world, the medical professional may have another thought. When you stand in front of a doctor, behind you is a sign, only visible to the doctor, that says, “NO DYING HERE.”
If your loved one does not have a plan, then the medical professional’s treatment plan will prevail. As well-intentioned as it is, the doctor does not know your loved one the way you do. But worse, the medical profession has their own language that can make miscommunication worse. For example, when a doctor says, this ailment is “treatable” the patient hears “curable.” The doctor is prolonging life, but not necessarily quality of life, and this approach may be in alignment with the patient’s plan only accidentally.
Another example of miscommunication occurs in the last stage of life. “Palliative care” is not the same thing as “hospice care.” Palliative removes the pain, but allows a patient to receive curative care. Hospice removes the pain as well as curative care. Kim Callinan teaches us that you can demand that your loved one feels less pain, and still receives curative care.
You may have to make difficult decisions without being able to talk with them. And there is a lot to learn. In my family, we faced these decisions with several people we love. Every time we have seen our clients in this situation, they faced a different set of difficulties. To make it less painful, ask a series of questions and have an honest conversation. It can go a long way towards eliminating miscommunication and easing pain.
Here is a toolkit to constructing your end-of-life plan!