The Gordons were a lovely family. Brad worked hard all his life and was looking forward to retirement. Alicia had dedicated her life to her family. Marty, their son, owned a small restaurant. Maisie, their daughter, worked for a bank. Things seemed to be going pretty well, up until Brad had a sudden heart attack. He was admitted to the hospital, but unfortunately, he suffered a second heart attack and succumbed to it. The Gordons were devastated.
The family had barely come to terms with Brad's sudden demise when they were forced to make serious decisions. Brad was a registered organ donor, but Alicia and the kids didn't know about it. Alicia wanted to bury him and have a headstone to visit, but the kids wanted to cremate him and keep his ashes in an urn. The house was paid off, but Alicia had no idea how many monthly bills they had or how to pay them. Alicia wanted to continue living in her house, but the kids wanted to know if she was going to sell it and whether they were going to get an inheritance.
When Brad died, his family needed to grieve. But they were left struggling to navigate through legal and financial bureaucracy. They didn't get to say proper goodbyes by Brad's bedside. They never had those difficult conversations. They didn't know for sure what Brad wanted, they could only guess.
Unfortunately, most of us have heard some version of the Gordons' story in our neighborhood, work place or family. What hurts me most is knowing that it could have been different. We know we are going to die one day. Why not plan for it and make it easier for the loved ones we will leave behind?
We plan as best we can for life, and death deserves no less. No matter how hard it might be to think about death, it is inevitable. We are living in extraordinarily unprecedented times, and no one knows when a cure or vaccine will be available for COVID-19. I cannot stress enough how important it is to plan for end of life care, now more than ever.
If you were to get infected, you could become seriously ill. You might not be able to think or communicate clearly. But there will be decisions that need to be made about the care you receive. Your loved ones will be asked about your preferences. Unfortunately, many families experience considerable stress and anxiety when placed in this role because they don’t know the values and preferences of their loved one.
So please, have those difficult conversations, make your wishes known. There are many resources available for advance care planning, and the "Plan Well Guide" is an excellent one. Talk to your family, your doctor, your lawyer, and friends. Choose a Substitute Decision Maker. Make your Advance Care Plan. Now is the time for those difficult conversations and decisions. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.
Healthcare System Navigator, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.