May is Women’s Health Month. As the emotional conduits for many families, women are well-suited to start some difficult but important conversations within their families about health-related decisions, including how each family member wants to be cared for at the end of life. For most of us, the dying process will be just that – a process, and not a sudden event. And while we all are guaranteed to experience the sunset of life, we might all have very different ideas about how it ideally goes down.
We can make decisions that help guide how our end of life process will be experienced using an advance directive that talks about our personal, emotional, and spiritual needs as well as medical choices. The best time to make difficult decisions is when you are not anywhere near the end of life and not in crisis. That way, your calm, thoughtful decisions can help guide you and your family when the time comes. Letting your loved ones know how you would optimally envision your dying process to be in different situations can be the kindest thing you do for them to ease their ability to cope. What your loved ones want most in a time of crisis is to know what you would want to be done without having to guess.
We are experiencing a global health crisis of unbelievable proportions right now. Sheltering in place in our homes has protected many of us from spreading Covid-19 during this pandemic. For those of us fortunate enough to be healthy and at home, it is an ideal time to make a legal advanced directive, a document that guides how you would want the end of your life decisions to be made if you were unable to speak for yourself. America’s most popular and easy to understand advanced directive document is called The Five Wishes. It is written in everyday language and helps you communicate your end of life wishes, including who you appoint to make medical decisions on your behalf in the case that you are no longer able to make your health care decisions. You can also communicate nuances that would increase your comfort, for example, what music you would like played, if any. The Five Wishes is available online and you can complete it from home. You can update it with new answers any time you want to as long as you communicate this to your loved ones and your doctor.
You can get your own copy of the Five Wishes legal advance directive to fill out at www.fivewishes.org. I challenge us all to use the month of May to get the Five Wishes filled out for all of the adults in our families.
Dr. Bren Boston is a medical doctor at the Akasha Center who specializes in Integrative Pain Management, Sports Medicine and Women’s Care. You can schedule an appointment with her by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.