As the adage goes, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes”. We just finished watching “Being Mortal” the Frontline documentary based on the New York writer and Boston surgeon Atui Gawande. In short the film talks about what Dr. Gawande summarizes as the “unfixables; ageing and dying”. It sheds light on the uncomfortable subject of end-of-life care, and the heartbreaking, heavy, uncomfortable task of telling someone that they have a few months to live as well as the important conversations required at the end of life. Having a good life as long as you can. You can’t always count on the Doctor to lead the way. This documentary, and the book it is based on is simply about dying, but it discusses dying on one’s own terms. A difficult film to watch, and book to read, but a subject that needs to have light shined upon it.
What do we have in common? We are all mortal and in our life we will know several people who suffer the infirmities of old age and or someone with cancer or another terminal illness.
Why do we wait until it’s too late to discuss this with our family? When this news happens to you, will it be too late? Will your loved one become too sick or frail to live by themselves? And if it is too late, what are the ripple effects? The guilt, the distress, the stress, the urgency of the decisions, sometimes lead us to lifelong regrets and bad decisions.
If you are suspicious that you may die one day, guess what, you’re right. No, I’m not saying you need your to-do-list to state: Call the plumber, Get and oil change, Talk to my family about getting old and dying, but what I am saying is that after seeing this film, it’s a discussion YOU NEED TO HAVE.
Guess what? None of us are good at having these conversations. Even Dr. Gawande explores hot ill equipped doctors are at having these conversations. If someone has limited time left, it has to be our duty to ourselves and to them to make time as comfortable as possible.
Life is short. These difficult conversations do not need to be left until the last week of someone’s life. As Dr. Gawande expresses, “there is no easy time to have these conversations…”
Asking yourself or your loved ones “What are your goals for ageing”, “What are the fears you have if you get sick?”. Having a personal directive done can be one of the most important conversations your have.
There are several great resources on how to talk to your doctor and family. So START THE CONVERSATION. Before it’s too late. It is our goal as a company to make sure every one of our client’s has this difficult discussion.
If nothing else, remember life is precious, and is precious right to the end regardless of condition, and we each deserve to be treated preciously right until the last of days. Talk! Talk! Talk! If you can’t with your most loved ones, who can you talk to.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the book.
“At least two kinds of courage are required in aging and sickness. The first is the courage to confront the reality of morality – the courage to seek out the trust of what is to be feared and what is to be hoped. Such courage is difficult enough. We have many reasons to shrink from it. But even more daunting is the second kind of courage – the courage to act on the truth we find.”