Every adult needs to complete an advance directive (and that means you, too!). It is the health care planning document that medical professionals follow if a patient becomes too ill to speak for him or herself. It gives your loved one the option to name someone as decision maker. And it is the place he or she can state preferences regarding life-sustaining treatment.
More than medicine
Death and dying is more than a medical event, however. Like birth, a family member’s death is a profound part of a family’s life journey. Just as an expectant mom might contemplate where to give birth and the emotional tone of the environment, your loved one may have thoughts about where to die and those surroundings. This may involve his or her religious or spiritual beliefs and preferences. Or may simply reflect personal rituals and symbols. The advance directive is a vehicle for your relative to describe these wishes, but you might need to start the conversation.
Some questions you might ask:
- Is there anything you would like us to do that is rooted in your faith? Tell us everything you can about what you might like. Any faith leader you would like us to call?
- Where would you prefer to pass? At home? Somewhere else?
- How do you envision the room? Special photos or prayers? Poems or music?
- To provide a sense of who you are, how shall we describe you to the doctors, nurses, or other helpers who may not have met you before? “Above all, he/she was a person who _____.”
A final gift
Capture your relative’s wishes on paper. Have him or her sign the document and attach it to the advance directive. Knowing your loved one’s spiritual wishes enables you to give him or her a final gift of comfort and dignity.
Is this an uncomfortable topic?
We at Gentle Shepherd Hospice understand this is not always an easy discussion. As the Roanoke and Lynchburg experts in family caregiving, we can help you and your loved one get started on an advance directive and even explore these more personal, very meaningful aspects—”spiritual planning.” Give us a call at 1-800-789-0586 (toll-free).