It's never easy to talk about death and all the "what ifs" that may precede it. However, the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush created an opportunity to bring an important conversation to the forefront for families.
Prior to her passing, a spokesperson announced that Mrs. Bush’s health was failing and that she had decided to pursue comfort care. Comfort care can take many different approaches, but it focuses on minimizing suffering instead of just prolonging life.
It was clear that the Bush matriarch had discussed her wishes for end of life care with her family and healthcare providers. That’s a conversation Alice Battista, the director of Supportive Care Services at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, said every adult should consider having.
"I believe her sharing it publicly is a good opportunity for everyone to stop and think about, if they were in that situation, what would they want for that care?" said Battista.
Just like drawing up a will to ensure your personal and financial affairs are in order after death, Battista said you need to think about and document your wishes and goals for end of life care. She explained that if something were to happen suddenly, it’s easier to make difficult decisions if loved ones know your wishes in advance. She added that patients with advanced health issues should also talk to their doctor about their wishes.
Some of the concerns to address, said Battista, are what type of medical treatment you may want or not want, and who would hold power of attorney if you are unable to make decisions on your own.
"What are your goals and values at this time in your life? What are your priorities at this time in life? Use that to form your decisions," Battista added.
While it may seem like a morbid or taboo topic to bring up, Battista explained that it can make a loss a little easier. She suggested approaching the subject through conversations about the future, or even using a previous experience with loss as a starting point.
"It’s easier for families to make difficult decisions when they’ve had a conversation with the patient ahead of time," Battista explained.
There are legal documents and options for end of life planning, including an advanced directive and living will option.
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