End of Life Ready: An Inside Look
By Beth Rahi, Case Manager
ISR Family Caregiver Support Program
Ever since I came to work for Island Senior Resources in 2016, I have had the honor of partnering with End of Life Washington to help people plan ahead. It is important to have paperwork in place, but it is also important to talk about your wishes.
As a case manager, I have seen the devastation and confusion that arise when families have not had the hard conversations or completed paperwork that express a person’s wishes and provide direction for their loved ones. The end of life is always difficult on the family and friends left behind, but it is worse when there are no documents in place that give the power to make decisions when needed. When a family knows what their loved one wants, in writing, it relieves doubt and anxiety when making decisions. For the person who is dying, there is comfort in knowing their wishes have been expressed and will be followed.
I have assisted families as they struggle with differing thoughts and opinions about what their loved one would want. When the information has been expressed in writing, it reduces disagreements. Some of the worst situations are when a family or family member must go to court because it is unclear who the person would want to make decisions for them, or because a person is incapable of making decisions and never selected a representative. It is not unusual for families to avoid talking about end-of-life issues. However, not talking about the topic can create unnecessary burdens, hardships, and cause permanent damage to family relationships. I have personally experienced what it is like when people disagree about how and when to end treatment for someone who could no longer make those decisions for themselves.
I am often asked when a Power of Attorney form goes into effect, and the reality is that each document is different. Some require three doctors to say someone is no longer capable of making decisions, and some give the Power of Attorney the right to make decisions or act on the person’s behalf at any point. If a person can make decisions for themselves, they can change their form at any time. Fear that you might change my mind is not a reason to not complete one, especially when compared to the damage caused by not having one.
The End of Life presentation on the 8th of June 2021 will provide forms, explanations, and guides for those hard conversations. They will answer questions about the forms, the Death with Dignity Act, and Voluntary Succession of Eating and Drinking as a choice for a terminally ill person to end their life. They also have an optional advanced directive for Alzheimer’s/Dementia/Mental Health.