Last weekend, while out to dinner with close friends, I committed a social faux pas. The conversation came to a screeching halt, followed by radio silence. You’re probably thinking politics, religion, #MeToo. No to all.
Initiating a discussion of advance-care planning seemed like a logical progression after discussing a relative undergoing treatment for cancer. Pushing a bit harder to engage in the topic, I was swiftly admonished with the disapproving quip, “Not exactly a conversation to have out on a Saturday night.”
Honestly, that’s fair. I would so much rather be that fun guy laughing over light-hearted topics.
However, when do we set aside the time for these serious conversations? What if we tried to just lighten it up a bit to get the discussion started?
Perhaps Hallmark needs a card — or pamplet — like this to include among its offerings:
Let’s talk about life, my dear family or friend:
To be clear, the subject is how mine will end.
The exact details unknown, still it’s time to discuss;
Tomorrow I may choke or get hit by a bus.
The world is uncertain, ’cept for taxes and death.
I don’t want you fighting ’bout how I take my last breath.
These topics are tough, this conversation a gift.
You won’t have to guess just how far I should drift.
The coffee is brewing. Sit down by my side.
To kick off this session, let’s use this book as our guide.
I choose you as trustee; we agree and you’re nodding.
Tell the doctors when it’s time to stop poking and prodding.
We’ll talk now and more later about complex decisions.
Remember, in the future we can always make some revisions.
What a great start, wrap it with a hug!
A hearty laugh that you may trip over the plug.
National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16. This is about six months from now. Let’s have these conversations now so that by this day our desires are memorialized, and we can get on with our journey.
The desired outcomes of advance care planning are:
Knowing and honoring a patient's informed plans
Creating an effective plan, including selecting a well-prepared health care agent or proxy who is willing and able to speak on your behalf even if they don’t agree with you.
Creating specific instructions that reflect informed decisions that are geared to that person’s state of health.
Having those plans available to the treating physician.
In the digital age, to say there is an abundance of resources available online for this kind of planning is an understatement. Unlike searching for a medical diagnosis online, which can cause confusion and paranoia, researching advance-care planning brings issues into focus. One such resource is The Conversation Project, which is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. Go to their website, theconversationproject.org, to procure a free starter kit. You can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter, which will give you reminders to work toward your goals or exhilarating confirmation that this gift of knowledge of your wishes is in the can. JN
Bob Roth is the managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.