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End of Life Conversations – A Tough But Necessary Discussion

End of Life Conversations – A Tough But Necessary Discussion

By Susan Williams

Sometime back I happened to read a tweet that said “How Doctor’s Die; It’s Not Like the Rest of Us But Should Be.” The topic caught my eye and had a link to an article in the Journal of Medicine.

When I clicked on the link I was fully expecting to read something about how physicians receive better medical treatments or preferential care when they die.

To my surprise, it was actually an article outlining a doctor’s intimate knowledge of dying and how in fact many physicians have chosen less treatment than the rest of us when facing death. 

The other thing that the article highlighted was how many physicians do not want any heroic actions or “futile care” to try and save their lives. Many have made sure that they have had the critical conversations with their families as to their end of life wishes.

So what I thought was going to be an article about special treatment for doctors when they die actually turned out to be a post that really shared a physicians role and perspective on end of life treatments.

It also shone a light on how critical it is to have discussions with your family about your end of life wishes.

In Canada it turns out that we are not having these conversations. 

According to a national Ipsos-Reid survey, 86% of Canadians have not heard of advance care planning and less than half have had a discussion with a family member or friend about healthcare treatments if they were ill and unable to communicate. And in the United States, it’s not that much different. Approximately 37% of Americans have advanced care directives.

Now I realize the topic of dying is not necessarily something we want to gather the family the dinner table to discuss but like it or not death is inevitable for all of us. 

We are all going to have to face it at some point. However how we want to face it is something that we should discuss with our families so that they are not left trying to figure out what we would have wanted before decisions are ever needed to be made.

In the US, conversations about death are actually starting to find their way to dinner tables. 

A movement that is starting to gain momentum is something called “Death Over Dinner”.   The idea is to arrange a dinner with the people that are most important to you and discuss the critical decisions that may need to be made like what you would like your final days to be like and who you would like to have close to you.  They have even developed a website dedicated to supporting this idea.  (If you’re interested, you can hear the Founder, Michael Hebb speak about the idea in his TED Talk video).

If you still can’t imagine yourself having a conversation about your end of life wishes with your loved ones then try to imagine yourself in their shoes trying to make decisions about your treatment or life choices and not knowing what you really want. 

Would you really want to burden them with the anxiety and stress of having to make these types of decisions without having had any direction from you?

Lets be honest, talking about death is a topic that we probably would all prefer to avoid.  However from one little 140 character tweet, I learned so much from doctors and their approach to dying and the need to talk about it that maybe in this situation Doctor Really Does Know Best.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.