My 10-year old came home the other day, more deranged than usual. He asked a friend to make him laugh, so his buddy told him “how babies come into existence.”
“Michael, what did he tell you?” “I don’t want to talk about it,” Michael says. For which I am grateful.
This is not the only talk I’m avoiding. I struggle to discuss end of life with my medical agent, my wife. We joke around the topic, but at a superficial level.
My wife says she’s terminating my life support as soon as her quality of life suffers. I tell clients she’s not going pull the plug: she’s going to raffle off the chance. They laugh, I chuckle at my great wit, and that’s pretty much the height of that conversation.
I’m drafting medical powers and directives to physicians. I should probably prepare my clients better to have the talk with their own family.
Help is available, sort of
Google “end of life talk” and you’ll find no end of resources. There are sites for social workers, for doctors, and for hospice patients and family. The common thread is that it’s time to limit treatment, and everyone’s wigged out. These sites are for families in crisis and the caregivers who don’t know what to tell them.
I’ve attended a few clients in the hospital, or made house calls near the end. Those clients are calmer and more mature than anyone around them. I just don’t recognize those clients in most of “the talk” websites. Those sites strike me more as “Someone forgot to have ‘the talk.’” They’re directed to agents, not principals.
Our clients are principals, not agents. With the least guidance, they’re willing and able to avoid these emotional train wrecks. What do we tell them?
ABA Proxy Quiz
The American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging has a variety of resources for consumers and professionals on their Health Care Decision Making page. I’m going to start sharing The Consumer’s Toolkit for Health Care Advance Planning with my clients.
I’m tempted to print one part of the Toolkit, Tool #7, The Proxy Quiz for Family or Physician, and pass it around the Thanksgiving table. It’s a 10-question quiz about your personal medical preferences. There are two copies in the set. You take one, your medical agent takes the other, and you compare answers. Kind of like The Newlywed Game, only with Grandma.
The ABA Consumer’s Toolkit is how professionals educate their clients to have the talk with their own family.
My wife doesn’t know it, but I’ve taken the Proxy Quiz myself, and the other half will be waiting for her at home tonight.
Thanks to Nancy Rust of the Y Collaborative for sharing the Proxy Quiz with me.