Hey Boomer. We’re dying.

I wanted to write something to my generation. I was prepared to be sarcastic.

“Hey Boomer! Tell your kids that you are going to die so they know what to do when it happens. Because we are dying.”

I wanted to write it because I work in a hospital. I talk to families before and after death as they are making decisions about choices of care, first for the patient, then for the body.

I’m seeing people my age who are patients. Which means that the families are the age of my wife, the age of our kids. And often, I hear, “I don’t know what to do. He never talked about it. She was so private.”

The person my age who is the patient didn’t acknowledge, at least on the outside of her head, his head, the possibility of death.

It may be because we’ve avoided getting old, we’ve thought death was for old people, we’ve been too busy caring for our parents and kids, we’ve been anticipating retirement, we’re too young to die.

I understand. It’s hard to be the “old people”. But we are. And, at current death rates, someone, someday, for sure, is going to need to make end of life decision on our behalf.

I know that our temptation is to say, “just cremate me and toss me in the river.” We don’t want a big deal (except for those of you who do.)

So I’d like to suggest a quick set of questions for you write down somewhere (and share).

1. Who is your next of kin?

That’s who will make the decisions.

In Indiana, the order is spouse, adult children, parents, adult sibling, grandparents, adult grandchildren, an adult who knows you well and knows your wishes. And it happens in that order. (And if there is more than one child, it may be a vote).

Don’t like that?

Then either sort things out or appoint a healthcare representative. It’s a simple form in Indiana (and other states.) (Here’s a story about choosing.)

And make sure this name is in your hospital chart, your wallet, your phone.

2.  What do you want them to do? What are your directions about your healthcare?

In a sudden serious hospitalization, a doctor will sit with your next-of-kin and say, “Did they ever tell you what they would want at life or death. Would they want CPR? Would they want a ventilator? Would they want us to do everything we can?”

And your next-of-kin will need to know the answer.

There are lots of strong opinions. “I don’t want to be a vegetable.” “I don’t want to be on a ventilator.” “Do everything possible.” These opinions are based on television, on what happened to a relative somewhere, on what you read somewhere.

But because we have a few minutes now, I’d like you to think with me.

When we lead those conversations, we often ask the question, “What would make a good day?” Be honest but acknowledge to yourself what factors someone could use to make that decision.

Understand that a ventilator is used to help you breath so your body can heal. It’s training wheels more than treatment. And allowing people to use it can be a good thing. Everything possible (such as doing compressions for 45 minutes) can leave a body broken. And a brain without oxygen for that long is in trouble.

3. What do you want them to do about organ donation? In Indiana, and I’m guessing in many other states, within an hour of your death, someone will call your next-of-kin and talk about tissue, bone, and organ donation. Help them out by talking about it.

4. What do you want them to do with your body? Do you want burial or cremation, or don’t you care?

Do you want donation to science? (Then start the process now. It takes some time and not everyone is accepted).

5. If it were up to you (and it’s not) how do you want them to gather to remember you? I tell families regularly, “I know what your loved one said about not having a big funeral, but you need to get together to eat and tell stories, at the very least.” Give them permission to do what they feel is best for them.

6. I just said that it’s not up to you. If you want it to be up to you, make pre-paid arrangements with a funeral home. I don’t know the process. But the possibility exists and may make things easier for your family at a time when they aren’t thinking clearly.

I may expand this list. I may revise it. But as my dad said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” So hitting “publish” will let you start thinking about these questions now.

Because, after all, boomer, we’re dying.

1 thought on “Hey Boomer. We’re dying.

  1. Good blog ! Many people do not want to acknowledge that death will come, not because they fear death, but because they fear poor health care. The thought of being at the mercy of an under resourced health care system drenched in ageism is just too much.. In Queensland, many see relatives and friends suffer greatly as they struggle in public health to get basic health care, good pain control and access to doctors in a broken health system. A good health system would give people confidence and support that they need to face difficult decisions. When people are traumatised by past experiences with healthcare, they will find it difficult to make plans for future healthcare

    Like

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