There are so many things in life we don’t have control over. While lifestyle choices can affect health and longevity, we generally don’t have much say in when we die. But, many of us can have a big say in HOW we die. Maybe that wasn’t the “precious gift” you were expecting us to reveal, but you’ll understand more after you read why.
The Gift of Your Life, Your Way
A family contacted us and set up a care management consultation. Mom was struggling with some chronic and acute health issues. She’d recently had a couple falls at home. So, several people had mentioned moving to an ALF. However, the ALFs were telling her she might need a nursing home. The care manager talked through what she wanted and listened to everyone’s concerns, desires, etc. She also assessed the situation to have a complete understanding of the needs.
What did the client want most? To stay in her cozy home with her beloved cat. She and her family were so relieved when the care manager said, “Then let’s make that happen.” They set about making a care plan together. Bringing in support services, she could stay safe and comfortable. Most importantly, the care manage guided a conversation about what she wanted. Together with the client and family, they laid out guidelines that would help her medical team and caregivers follow her wishes.
Life is About the “Little Things”
She already had advance directives, but these conversations covered real-life details. They helped everyone understand her priorities. They outlined how she wanted to live the rest of her life, not just what treatments she did or didn’t want.
Her caregivers made sure she had her favorite ice cream every night after dinner. Family members set up regular video chats when she shared how much she missed the grandkids. They planned some day trips to her favorite Florida sites. Her care manager set her up with audiobooks since her vision kept her from her favorite hobby of reading.
Hitting Pause on the Medical Merry-Go-Round
Prior to this meeting, the client was spending half of her week at doctor’s offices. The care manager helped coordinate her care and eliminate the unnecessary visits. Despite not wanting further aggressive treatment, she’d been getting numerous tests each month. Now, she could spend time living out her life the way she wanted.
The assessment also identified some potential medication issues. She’d been feeling confused and dizzy. The care manager suggested a visit with her doctor to talk about these symptoms and review her medication regime. He pinpointed a couple unnecessary medications. Another medication often caused dizziness, so he reduced the dosage. The care manager also wondered about her diet and set up an appointment with a nutritionist. Then, the care manager coordinated a caregiver to cook meals guided by the nutritionist’s plan. Finally, the client began feeling more like herself.
As her disease progressed, the care manager adapted the care plan. They made modifications to the home and brought in extra support. Hospice helped manage her pain. One of her daughters took some leave to spend time with Mom. She wanted to die in the comfort of home, not be rushed to the ER to be poked and prodded.
Thanks to some planning and support, the client lived her last months and days as she wished. Not only was this a gift for her, but to her family. They felt peace of mind. And, they created more happy memories with Mom instead of spending the last days in crisis.
The Gift You Can Give Yourself (and Those You Love)
We have so many similar stories…and examples of the flip side. Our team has helped many disagreeing families overcome conflict. Sometimes late life brings opportunities to heal long estrangements. And, it can be a time to reflect on life, enjoy small pleasures, and spend time with loved ones. Or, it can be a time spent virtually living at medical providers.
Years ago, working as a nursing home social worker we had a particularly challenging situation with a family. The resident was nearing the end of life, but his daughter kept pushing for aggressive treatment. (He could no longer speak for himself.) The nursing staff felt she was being unreasonable and wanted me to “fix it”.
As I listened to her, I soon realized the issue. Dad had never shared what he wanted. He was proud of surviving WW2, accidents, and several bouts with cancer. Everyone knew him as a stoic fighter. Unfortunately, this meant he didn’t talk about things. His daughter made completely different decisions when her Mom was dying. Mom had made it clear she didn’t want aggressive measures. Now, the daughter (and probably the father) were suffering needlessly. They truly missed out on the precious gift of having control over these last days.
End of life care isn’t about a treatment, location, or document. It’s about life. And, whether you want to “go out fighting”, finish your bucket list, or spend extra time with loved ones…you can. This time can be a gift, even if it comes with challenges.
Give yourself the most precious gift
Chat with one of our advocates today to make sure you live out life the way you want. We offer help with resources, assistance programs, patient advocacy, family mediation and much more.