Rotarian Linda C. Scaz, a first-time contributor, writes about the importance of making our life choices known.
by Linda C Scaz, RN, PhD
Making decisions around our life choices can be both difficult & thought provoking. It's easy to say how we want to live; I want to be charitable, I want the best for my kids & grandkids, I need to volunteer/work more, stay current with my bills. But as we begin to age & face chronic illnesses we procrastinate with the decisions that may make our life's journey more comfortable for not only ourselves but our families who may become our voice in making decisions for us. We have planned for retirement financially, perhaps changed geographic location to seek more leisure time or have opportunity to be with the grandkids and eventually we fall into a rhythm of day to day living running the risk of not sharing life determining decisions with our friends & families.
But what happens when things occur suddenly in our lives? A stroke, an auto accident, a heart attack, a cancer diagnosis? As a hospice nurse for over 30 yrs, I have witnessed families grappling with agonizing decisions as to what their now comatose loved one would have wanted. No one ever discussed it , the subject never came up or if it did little time was given to it as those things don't happen to us, only to other folks. Sometimes our own cultural beliefs prevent us from ever discussing end of life preparedness, such as in the African American community where death is not a topic to be dealt with until it happens.
Though end of life decisions may not warrant nightly dinner conversation it is worthy of our time. To save families from making decisions contrary to what their loved one may or may not have wanted, now is the time for each of us to face these difficult conversations around life & death care. How do you want to be treated when you are faced with a life limiting illness? Do you want to be resuscitated, to receive blood or Intravenous antibiotics? Would you like to be an organ donor? Do you want to be placed on a ventilator? These are not easy decisions but require each of us to do some soul searching & dig deep into our personal value base, something not easily accomplished.
Begin to make your wishes known. Direct your own medical care now in case your voice in the future may be silent. One key method to begin this process is to look into developing a Living Will. This can be discussed with your personal physician, your lawyer or clergy member.
Another opportunity is to connect with your local hospice as many of them will share a wonderful booklet called "Five Wishes" put out by the group Aging with Dignity. This concise work respectfully walks one through specific questions & decisions around an individual's choices for medical, social & spiritual end of life decisions. It is a good place to start and your decisions can always be changed as you so desire or as your life circumstances change.
Life is precious & should be enjoyed & cherished daily. In discussing our choices & decisions with family & friends now while we are capable, as to how we want to proceed on life's journey, we give them the gift of peace of mind.
Linda C. Scaz is a Rotarian from Jacksonville, Florida. She is Director of Community Engagement at Haven Hospice. (www.havenhospice.org)
Linda is a first-time contributor to Rotary eClub One's programs.