February 2011 Newsletter – Choices and Empowerment

I spoke to residents at an assisted living facility last month. I thought perhaps I would find myself ‘speaking to the choir’ when it came to discussing advance directives and other considerations to decide upon and discuss with loved ones. It turns out I was wrong to assume that. Some of the residents in attendance made it clear that their loved ones were not interested in discussing any end-of-life topics with them. Their children may presume that such details are covered by the living facility in some way.

My audience listened closely when I spoke of choices we have that are not on the advance directives. Some considerations we fail to prioritize might include:

I want kept clean and able to maintain my dignity.

I don’t want to die alone.

I want to be able to discuss my personal fears with my physician.

I want to be able to resolve unfinished business.

I want to remain mentally aware.

I want music.

I want someone with me who will pray.

There are many decisions we are empowered to voice our opinions about now. I encourage people to consider these, and many more details today, and document them so your wishes are acknowledged.

Another topic close to my heart during these presentations is to remind people who they are – who they were and who they have become. My 92-year-old friend gets so frustrated that most of the residents where she lives only seem to identify themselves by their symptoms and medications. Some have forgotten how to have meaningful conversations about much else. I ask the attendees to think of words that most accurately describes who they are today. I ask them to remember funny stories that happened in their life. It’s necessary to remember our stories. It’s important to have someone write these stories down so they are saved. It’s key to reflect on times in our past that was uplifting, of people who held particular importance, and who influenced or mentored us along the way. It’s vital to remember our achievements. And it’s worthwhile to write notes of wisdom to our loved ones now.

We need to remember that we have options, and feel empowered when we make choices.

We live our lives more consciously when we live with gratitude for our past, and for each day we embrace in the present.