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The dreaded conversation

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s recently sent out an email about planning for your parents’ future, if/when they become incapacitated in body or mind and are unable to care for themselves anymore. The message stressed how important it is to have “the conversation” where you discuss these difficult topics with your family and develop a plan just in case it is ever needed. Of course, I think this is the smart and right thing to do and would encourage all families to do this.

But from my personal experience, easier said than done. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, my dad had a fear of death so he never wanted to broach the subjects of becoming ill and dying. My mom, ever the chipper one, would respond to my encouragement to fill out the will paperwork by saying, “Well, you already act like we have one foot in the grave. We’re not dead yet!”

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I’m hoping that with the baby boomers, such discussions won’t be viewed in such a taboo fashion. And as long as Generation X and younger can fill out a form online, they’ll probably be willing to do it. While the younger generations certainly have earned some fair criticism about their navel-gazing tendencies, in this case, it is a good thing to sit down and spell out exactly how you want these aspects of your life to be. The more introspective, the better!

For those of us who have family members with dementia who did not plan ahead, you often feel like you are stumbling through the dark, hoping you are doing the right thing, but the uncertainty can haunt you in the middle of the night. My dad was afraid of dying, but if he could have understood what his sad reality was going to be with Alzheimer’s, would he have been more inclined to be a DNR? I’m not sure, but I am plagued by what the doctor on duty at the nursing home said the day Dad died. The DNR instructions from the hospital did not make it to the new facility, and the doctor said he thinks the EMS worker broke Dad’s ribs when performing CPR on him. That should not have happened. We as a family should have triple-checked about the DNR order. That’s why it is so vital to discuss these things before an emergency arises, because no one is in a proper frame of mind at that point.

What tactics have worked in your family to discuss these sensitive end-of-life topics?

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