The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
My sister Jane was a devoted mother and valued friend. She advocated for employee rights in the workplace. When cancer spread through her body, though, Jane wouldn’t talk with us about anything other than treatment and being a survivor. She wouldn’t even speak with her medical team about what she might want if her condition became untreatable. Though she drafted her financial power of attorney and her will, she didn’t sign them.
In the hospital, less than a week before Jane died, her oncologist finally found a way for Jane to communicate that she did not wish a lingering death.
Three days before she died, she had us call her attorney. He brought her financial power of attorney and her will to the hospital for her to sign. Jane barely had the strength to sign her will. She could only make an ‘X’ on her power of attorney. So I signed it, as witness of her mark.
People are also reading…
A slip of paper on which she’d written the title of a single, soulful hymn was the only clue she left to help us plan her funeral.
Thank you for taking our story — Jane’s story — in. I share her story because nearly every family I know has a difficult story like this. And if they don’t yet, they very likely will.
But what I’ve learned is that their stories — your story — can be different.
While I’ve seen the devastating consequences of not talking about the inevitability of death, I’ve also learned that these conversations are essential.
Prior to her last illness, my mother, who outlived Jane, had completed her living will and her medical power of attorney. And she had shared them with her surviving children. When death drew close, Mother expressed peacefulness about what she was going through. I felt less stress and less anxiety than I expected. The work Mother had done to prepare herself and her children gave all of us confidence that the care we gave her was the care she most desired.
These experiences with Mother and Jane were formative. I’ve completed my living will and medical power of attorney. I’ve shared them with the people closest to me. And I volunteer at my church and with the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Arizona, helping people like you complete their living wills and medical powers of attorney.
Your medical advance care directive (living will) authorizes the type of medical care you want and what you don’t want if you are unable to speak for yourself. Your medical power of attorney authorizes who will speak for you if you can’t. You can also use a mental health care power of attorney to appoint a person to make future mental health care decisions for you if you become incapable of making those decisions for yourself.
Residents of Pima County are fortunate that the Arizona End of Life Care Partnership is anchored at the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. My organization, Funeral Consumers Alliance of Arizona, is one of many passionate, service-minded, diverse EOLCP partners. We’re all here to make it easy for you to complete these crucial documents, including in your preferred language, and help you have those crucial conversations. To get started, connect with us at azendoflifecare.org/resources/ or call (520) 485-4484.
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Make that the day to check off three tasks: completing your advance care planning documents, talking them over with the people most important to you, and filing a copy in the Arizona Healthcare Directives Registry. Make National Healthcare Decisions Day 2023 a day you do something wonderful for yourself and the people you love.
Martha Lundgren is president of the board of directors of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Arizona. FCAAZ is a consumer advocacy organization, dedicated to providing objective information and education about end of life and the requirements and options in making after-death arrangements. She lived in Tucson from 2008 to 2021.