Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A snippet from my "advance directives..."

...which do not actually exist yet in written form, my bad. My state is a "Five Wishes" state, which means that I could, if I choose, use the very popular "Five Wishes" document to define what I do and don't want at the end of my life and most particularly identify the person to serve as my agent, medical durable power of attorney, whatever it is called where you live.

Now, I do have some problems with the Five Wishes--there are some twitchy items I could choose, like wanting everyone in my family to resolve any differences they may have if possible (talk about a good guilt trip to lay on the family as one trips out the door), and wanting all my loved ones to know that I see my death as a time of personal growth for them and me so that the end of my life will have meaning (hmmmmmmmmmm.... that is just too New Age for me and I think there are plenty of things that give life meaning that don't require me or anyone else to think about personal growth). The biggest thing about Five Wishes is that it is a wonderful vehicle to begin thinking about end-of-life issues, but it can't possibly, in itself, carry all the context-sensitive information that you'd want folks to act upon near the end of your life. Thus, you must choose your representative with care and have many conversations with that person, and/or write a lengthy addendum to the Five Wishes. If I choose the Addendum Option, I suspect mine will be about 30 pages long, ranging from the sublime, as:

If I have end-stage dementia and I hate my life and I fall and bust my hip, I truly do not want to do surgery and rehab for the busted hip. There are times and places for huge amounts of painkillers, frequent access to ice cream and mashed potatoes, and letting nature take its course. That's one of them.

To what may seem ridiculous:

If I am in your facility, and I am not able to speak, and you feel impelled to turn the TV to the "relaxing music" option, resist. Resist with all your might and main, because I WILL haunt you. Some "relaxing music" (stuff by Will Ackerman, very notably) is absolutely beautiful and I like it. But the rest? Elevator music. And that stuff sounds to me like fingernails on a chalk board. While the resulting increase in my pulse and blood pressure may be initially gratifying to you, it means I am going nonverbally nutso. And in this, as in so many areas of life, it is, truly, the little things that make a difference.

From time to time I'll put snippets of my Imagined Addendum into the blog with the hope that they will (a) inspire focused thought on your part about your own Advance Directives, and/or (b) make you laugh.


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