The COVID-19 pandemic has been a frightening time for all of us. The uncertain nature of the disease and number of people affected brings the importance of what we want at the end of our lives to the forefront. With hospitals and skilled nursing facilities limiting visitors and the inability of some to travel, it is necessary to discuss what we wish to happen at the end of life with our loved ones.
We all know that when one person within our family or group of friends gets diagnosed with a severe illness like malignant mesothelioma, it affects all of us. Uncomfortable conversations need to be had. However, navigating these complex and potentially life-altering conversations can be done in a reflective, thoughtful way.
As nurses, we have long heard our peers state that they would never have chosen the treatment that a particular patient went with, only to confront a health challenge themselves and choose the same treatment option.
Our relationships are the most important connections that we have. What we value and who we love are all individual decisions. Once we self-reflect on what we value and how we would like to live our final days, we need to let others know. To ensure your wishes are carried out, they must be shared with those who care about us: a spouse, partners, friends, and so on. Your medical team needs to know your desires, but more important than anything is that you and your loved ones know them.
Having essential conversations regarding our end-of-life wishes should be done by all of us, ideally before a health crisis. But unfortunately, it is easy to put off these conversations.
There is guidance and help on where to start thinking and planning about our wishes. Ellen Goodman, one of the co-founders of the Conversation Project, sums up their goal: “Conversations about what matters to you, not what is the matter with you.”
There are workbooks to help clarify your values and wishes. What do you value? Do you want to be home when you die? With who will you share your wishes?
In this complex world, sometimes we need to get back to basics and accept that we all are mortal. Talking and planning will not hasten our end of life but enable some peace when it does come. Ensuring that what you as an individual value and the decisions you want are honored can offer some peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.