A positive upbeat declaration is a great starting point. Share that you feel healthy, you love life and you intend to savor its fullness as long as humanly possible. However, you also believe in preparedness, and you’d like to make sure the two of you would be on the same wavelength in an end-of-life situation.
Interview Your Doctor: The day you start wondering about end-of-life options is no time to discover your doctor’s values and beliefs don’t match your own. You might like some clues now to what your doctor’s approach might be later. What kind of questions would get your doctor to open up?
- Doc, if I had an illness that looked pretty grim, how would you feel if I wanted to take a pass on the heroics and let nature take its course?
- I wouldn’t want my family fighting over keeping me alive if I were in the condition of Terri Schiavo, with no chance of recovery. How would you handle a situation like that?
- What if I were dying and really struggling with pain or other agonies? Would you prescribe enough pain medication and sedatives to keep me comfortable, even if it meant my life might be a little shorter?
Value Humility in doctors for seniors. Above all. Find a doctor who utters the words, “I don’t know” and you’ve found true gold. Happily, the time is gradually passing when the doctor’s only source of pride lies in “doing everything” possible to prolong life. Some also take pride in serving as midwife to a good death.
Share the Value of What Family Means: Find a doctor who cherishes the love and bond of families, whose greatest need at the end is for a little quiet time and the caress of their beloved. Treasure the doctor who might respond to a family asking that “everything” be done, in the way suggested ten years ago by Duke University physician David Pisetsky:
I would like to say, ‘Family, only you can do everything. Only you can talk of your love and give kisses before the skin is cold. Only you can talk of the future and of dreams to be fulfilled. Only you can talk of the past when life was resplendent because time seemed infinite. Family, only you can oppose the flow of time and enjoy one last day together. Only you can give peace and sustenance for the next journey. Family, only you can do everything. I am only a physician. I can do nothing at all.’