As this Christmas song was running through my head today, this thought popped into my head: If you don’t really need anything for Christmas, but your parents want to know what to give you, ask for them to give you a Living Will (and Power of Attorney- for them)!
I mean, let’s face it: I don’t need for my mother to buy me a sweater or give me a random gift certificate.
What most adult children really need from their parents, and maybe don’t even realize it, is the knowledge about what to do for their parents when they can no longer tell you what they want.
So the jingle went something like this in my head: (cue music)
All I want for Christmas is a Living Will,
A Living Will,
Yes a Living Will,
If you could please just do for me a Living Will,
So I’ll know what you want when you can’t tell me!
Now, let me make a suggestion about that Living Will. When you do a Living Will, be clear about what you want and don’t want. Ambiguity has no place in your Living Will. It only causes problems for those who are trying to honor it.
My father, bless him, was not very clear and definitive in his directive. He felt that consensus amongst the family was the highest priority in care decisions made about or for him in the circumstance that he could not make those decisions for himself. Now, communicating that was cloaked in the expression that he believed that life was to be preserved; deferring quality of life for quantity of life at some level (at least in my interpretation of his thoughts…..see what I mean?). And while I am sure that he thought family consensus was better from his standpoint, family harmony and all that, my point is that it makes things very difficult on a family.
Not that I felt the family would come to fisticuffs over anything, but it left us open to feeling guilty if we made a decision that in any way did not preserve his life.
Now, understand that my father has dementia and gets progressively weaker by the day it seems. He is now mostly in a wheelchair and is pretty miserable, physically and mentally, most of the time. He has little enjoyment in his current situation; at least none that he shares with family or that we see when we visit.
In this situation, given a very clearly stated Living Will that was completed years ago while he still had full mental capacity, we would know what to do. Whether we agreed with it or not, we would honor his wishes. But having an ill-defined directive makes this harder.
My husband and I just went through the exercise of creating our Living Wills, as well as the other documents we all need to have. We were very careful to be exceedingly clear in the Living Will so that our children won’t have to agonize over decisions made about our care. There was no talk-it-over-amongst-yourselves clause to muddy the waters.
I hope that someday they will be able to see this as the gift that it was meant to be.
So, if you really don’t know what to ask for, ask for the gift of knowing what your parents want if they were to become unable to make decisions for themselves (or give that gift to your children). As a nurse, I can tell you; this is a beautiful gift to give your family. If it doesn’t make this year’s Christmas list, there is always next year!
On the journey with you…….Kathy
Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant that works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent. She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com or visit her website at http://parentcarealliance.com/