Those Important Conversations
By Christina Mereu
What does “dying well” mean to you? Who will speak for you if/ when you are unable? Do you have a Substitute Decision Maker? Have you shared your wishes with your loved ones? I know, such discussions are not exactly on your list of good time activities, right? Let’s just eat our favourite foods, go for a walk, play a game of cards, go fishing, do what we usually do when family gets together. We trust each other, we are healthy…
You think it can wait? Here is my story.
On May 10, 2015 my father died. He was 93 and had been living in a retirement home in London. For the last several years of his life my brother and I were his Substitute Decision Makers. We were appointed powers of attorney for his finances and his personal care. That is not to say he wasn’t a participant in the decisions.. No, my father was clear about what he wanted and he certainly made it known. And what a gift that was in the end. My brother and I were able to have the important conversations with him and with our siblings regarding the next steps in his care as his health declined. He was very much in control until he could no longer take control. He died in the palliative care unit of Sarnia General Hospital, with my brother and I alternating round the clock vigil for his last few days with us. All calm, no surprises, no angst, nothing left unsaid. A good ending for a man who lived a troubled and difficult life.
Then the unthinkable happened. On August 4, 2015, I awoke early with a tingling in my right hand that moved into my arm. I gave it a shake, thinking my hand was just going to sleep and I turned onto my back. But the tingling moved into my face and I had a bit of a head ache. I slid out of bed with a heaviness on my entire right side. Now, you have to know that I am slim and fit, not yet 60, have excellent blood pressure and pride myself on eating a very healthy diet. A stroke was NOT in the plan. But, there it was. Thankfully, the health care providers in Wiarton and Owen Sound acted quickly, and as a result, minimized the impact of the stroke. I am now able to write this article and I am cycling in southern Portugal in April. Hurray! Those important conversations with my family are on-going. This precious life is fragile. There is much we cannot control; yet, there is much we can claim.
Don’t wait, let’s talk. Advance care planning matters.
April 16 is National Advance Care Planning Day and I encourage you to take the next step in having this important conversation with your loved ones. I am one of many visiting hospice volunteers who have trained to pursue the goals of Bruce Peninsula Hospice: to bring compassionate care to families living with a progressive life limiting illness. It is the work of Bruce Peninsula Hospice to promote quality of life until the very end of life. If you need more information to get you started you can visit our display at the Wiarton Public Library on Saturday April 16 from 10:00-1:00.Nancy Forgrave of Bruce Peninsula Hospice will be available with materials, information and ideas. You can also visit www.advancecareplanning.ca for more information.
Bruce Peninsula Hospice is grateful to the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat for its 2015 Seniors Community Grant Program, in support of our Community Education Project.
The Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat (OSS) advocates for, undertakes and supports policy and program initiatives that help improve the quality of life of seniors, and undertakes public education efforts for and about seniors. It also work with seniors’ organizations and across government to develop programs and services that meet the needs of seniors and help them enjoy safe, active and healthy lives.