No one likes to think about death whether it’s their own or a loved one’s. Unfortunately when we don’t have these discussions and make appropriate plans, it leaves doctors and family members to make decisions which we may not want. The better approach is to accept the reality of aging and death and become what I call a “pro-choice senior,” someone who seeks to make informed decisions and plan for the future.

In a recent article, Dr. Atul Gawande talked about the 5 questions to ask at life’s end. As he pointed out though, they should really be asked long before the end so there is time to do the things you want to do. His 5 questions are:

  1. What is your understanding of where you are and of your illness?
  2. What are your fears or worries for the future?
  3. What are your goals and priorities?
  4. What outcomes are unacceptable to you? What are you willing to sacrifice and not?

And later,

  1. What would a good day look like?

These questions really have many dimensions and should be used to help clarify our personal objectives. Frankly, the more we get used to having discussions around these questions, the more comfortable we will become about facing our own mortality.

Without clear directives, older adults receive care beyond what many want, but they feel pressured or uncomfortable saying no and their families don’t want to either. As another doctor recently wrote, even the medical establishment “cannot separate out those things meant to simply prolong life and those meant to prolong quality of life.” But we can do our part. We need to ask the questions above and have difficult conversations with our families, doctors and our caregivers.

We also need to develop a plan and implement necessary legal protections to be certain our directives are followed., The basic instruments that should be in place are a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will and a Revocable or Irrevocable trust as needed.

We can’t prevent aging or dying, but we can take control of our lives and be PRO CHOICE SENIORS.

Contact me to get started.