In our family we have had to deal with some troubling decisions that could have been eased by thoughtful planning. At only 57 years old my mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease (an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65). The disease progressed rapidly and she soon needed to be put in long term care. But the care didn't turn out to be be very long term - she could not feed herself and quickly lost the ability to swallow. Her mental condition swiftly degraded and we were faced with a very difficult and painful family decision. How extraordinary should be the measures we would take to keep the husk of our mother breathing, and when would we allow her to leave this earth? With modern technology she could have been kept alive for many years with zero quality of life. Our family wrestled with these and other decisions without much preparation. We eventually decided to provide only comfort measures and very soon my mother passed away at 64 years old.
This was five years ago, and the pain still lingers, but I encourage you to have these difficult conversations as a family during this holiday season. Death is completely natural, and as a Christian I have great hope beyond this mortal life. We do not always get to choose the manner of our passing, so being prepared and letting your family know your wishes is an important way of showing your love.
I wish you all a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving and please read the post below:
Things we are grateful for this year
For three years running now, many of us bloggers have participated in what we’ve called a “blog rally” to promote Engage With Grace – a movement aimed at making sure all of us understand, communicate, and have honored our end-of-life wishes.
The rally is timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these unbelievably important conversations – our closest friends and family.
At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation about end-of-life started. We’ve included them at the end of this post. They’re not easy questions, but they are important -- and believe it or not, most people find they actually enjoy discussing their answers with loved ones. The key is having the conversation before it’s too late.
This past year has done so much to support our mission to get more and more people talking about their end-of-life wishes. We’ve heard stories with happy endings … and stories with endings that could’ve (and should’ve) been better. We’ve stared down political opposition. We’ve supported each other’s efforts. And we’ve helped make this a topic of national importance.
So in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, we’d like to highlight some things for which we’re grateful.
Thank you to Atul Gawande for writing such a fiercely intelligent and compelling piece on “letting go”– it is a work of art, and a must read.
Thank you to whomever perpetuated the myth of “death panels” for putting a fine point on all the things we don’t stand for, and in the process, shining a light on the right we all have to live our lives with intent – right through to the end.
Thank you to TEDMED for letting us share our story and our vision.
And of course, thank you to everyone who has taken this topic so seriously, and to all who have done so much to spread the word, including sharing The One Slide.
We share our thanks with you, and we ask that you share this slide with your family, friends, and followers. Know the answers for yourself, know the answers for your loved ones, and appoint an advocate who can make sure those wishes get honored – it’s something we think you’ll be thankful for when it matters most.
Here’s to a holiday filled with joy – and as we engage in conversation with the ones we love, we engage with grace.
To learn more please go to www.engagewithgrace.org. This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team.