The parenting habit never dies. Fully into our senior years, my husband and I have made some changes not only to make our lives better but to make our kids’ easier. Downsizing into a home where we can age in place? Check. Taking care of our health to stay independent as long as possible? Check. Estate planning? That’s done too.
Then there’s end-of-life planning. Most of us relish this about as much as a colonoscopy. Even as we accept the inevitability of death, we’d rather not think about it — about our own end or that of loved ones who may precede us — especially as we assume we can control it no more than predict it.
We have more control than we realize. By thinking through and clearly communicating our wishes about medical treatments to family members and doctors, each of us can control the degree and nature of the interventions we undergo. Informed by our values and based on our personal measures, we can determine our personal tipping point at which quality of life is more important than quantity.
But without clearly stated preferences, our current health-care system’s default imposes on us a medicalized death, usually prolonged, often at the cost of greater suffering without the possibility of restoring full quality of life. Particularly for those of us who have had our full measure of years, this may not be what we want. The choice is ours if we will make it.
It’s hard to make these choices for ourselves, but it’s even harder to make them for someone else — someone we love and don’t want to lose. I don’t want to impose that on my children. End-of-life planning gives me some peace of mind, but it’s just as much a gift to them. After all, I’d do anything for my kids.
Compassion & Choices, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to end-of-life choices, offers excellent planning resources. For more, go to www.CandC.org; to get involved, go to www.CandC.org/volunteer. They will direct you to our local Oak Park group that meets monthly to discuss these issues.