For Senior Women: Talking About Death

May 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: For Senior Women

Dad wants to return to his roots to die.  He’s very adamant about it and extremely clear.  He wants to return to the state in which he was born and spent the first 50 years of his life.  The fact that he can even verbalize this feeling amazes me.  But I can attribute it to an important process that my sister started with our parents over a year ago.

Pat is a hospice nurse, and professional caregiver; she has worked with hospice for 150 years (remember that means a long, long, long long long time) and in fact has helped plan, organize and write hospice programs.  This is her life, her passion and she is good.  She knows the ‘end of life’ issues, questions and subjects that need to be addressed.  So she started addressing these with our parents.

It was hard at first…they both cried and cried.  She treated them with respect and  honor.  She helped them to talk about their wishes and desires for their own lives at the time of their deaths.  Neither of them really knew what they wanted…if they had thought about it,  they hadn’t talked about it with anyone.  As they talked, they began to find it an easier subject to deal with and they began to form some definite thoughts about what they wanted or didn’t want.

My sister talked with them about their funerals, their finances, what to do at the time of death.  They talked about resuscitation, they talked about care facilities, they talked about Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

It was perhaps a little over a year ago that she felt the need to talk with them about end of life issues.  She told me that she said to them during one of her visits with them, that she had some difficult questions that she wanted to ask them.  She clarified to them that they didn’t have to answer her questions if they didn’t want to, or perhaps they had discussed the topic with someone else and they didn’t need to discuss it with her.  So she simply asked,  “Dad, do you know what you would do if you woke up one morning and found mom dead?”  Actually, she is our second mom…dad remarried after our mother died 25 years ago.  “Mom, what would you do if you walked into the living room and found dad had died in his chair?”

My sister told me that no one had ever talked to them about this  and they were very happy and actually quite relieved to talk with her.  She said that in hospice, you die….you don’t ‘pass’  or ‘move on’,  you die.  And this is how the whole conversation got started.

And so a year later, DPOAH or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare has been signed and given to their doctor.  Mother has a copy and so do we.  Do Not Resuscitate papers have been signed and are posted by their bed.  Funeral plans have been made, scratched and made again.  And their wishes have been written down.  What to do if one wakes up to find the other dead has been discussed and each step has been written down.  We’ve taken the further step of checking in with them each morning around 7:00, or making a telephone call to them.  Financial issues are being addressed.  Power of Attorney is in place for our father whose mind no longer permits him to make decisions.

Death, we’re all going to be there someday…I’m learning that to the extent possible, planning for it may help remove part of the sting for those left.  I have talked about every stage of my life…young adult, marriage, retirement…talking about my end of life years is going on my agenda for discussion.  I have seen for myself what a good thing it is to talk about.

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