Final Days

Have you ever really sat back and thought about what your final days would look like or whether you had a day in your last days on earth, let along your final resting space? I have. 

Just a few months ago, I sat down and had a conversation with my daughter about death. I told her that if for any reason I ended up in the hospital on my death bed and doctors told her, my son, or husband, that there was nothing else that they could do for me and that I would die eventually, I wanted her to make the decision to immediately pull the plug, no life support for me. No DNR on my behalf. I also stated that if there were a chance of my survival, but the outcome would leave me in a vegetated state, I do not want to live in that capacity, and I would NOT, under any circumstances, want to be a burden to her and her brother, nor my husband. I’d rather Die with Dignity, as opposed to slipping away knowing that I will be burdensome to my children or other family members. I would rather Die with Dignity, knowing that close relatives have a long life ahead of them and that my condition was holding them back from reaching their full potential and living their life to the fullest. 

Death with Dignity is defined as terminally-ill persons requesting and receiving euthanization from a licensed medical practitioner with legal rights to administer such medication. It is a painless form of early and voluntary expiration. The process is deliberate and irreversible. This procedure is available to persons who are subjected to incurable diseases and not those who suffer from chronic pain or some other form of illness. A licensed medical doctor determines whether patients qualify for such treatment. The treatment would rarely be offered. It is also a rarity that the treatment is requested. Patients become aware of such physician-assistive dying practices and procedures through specialty clinics, those in which they themselves or their family members may seek and find.

The Death with Dignity Act (DDA) is legal in various U.S. states, i.e., California, Oregon, District of Columbia, Maine, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, and New Jersey, and various countries, 28 countries to be exact, those including Spain, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Uruguay, just to name a few. Other U.S. states and countries are slowly adopting the DDA, thus implementing physician-assistant dying practices into laws. However, it is a known fact that terminally-ill persons will travel from non-physician-assistant-dying states or countries to states or countries where such a method has been legalized. One fundamental reason a terminally ill person seeks such assistance is to essentially “die with dignity.” This means not reaching a point in their lives where they can no longer take care of themselves entirely or becoming solely dependent on others for the caregiving and daily essential activities and exercises.

It is incontestable most terminally ill patients have raised their children to the best of their ability but, does this mean that their children are responsible for returning the favor. It is inevitable that you will come into this world in infant form, not do for yourself and depend on others to feed, bathe, and clothe you. However, is that how older adults wish to go out in this world, with a lack of dignity and self-sovereignty or autonomy.

Most people would likely agree that going out of this world in a desolate and despondent manner is not at the top of their list. Correspondingly, they would also forego the option of being a burden to others, particularly family members. Nevertheless, most family members are the persons that will have your best interest at heart and provide quality care, even if they have not undergone any professional training to obtain certification or license. Moreover, terminally ill persons are more likely to live with relatives and not in assistive-living community-dwellings. More importantly, the reason for familial in-home care is due to the fees associated with assistive-living facilities for seniors, as most persons or families cannot afford these services, and insurance may not cover treatments as such. Respectively, most people or families who could afford to place their parents or terminally ill family member, senior or not, may not gain comprehension of the mental and emotional drainage and strains that family caregivers endure. 

Ascertaining a healthy cognitive state, terminally-ill individuals have the mental capacity to take it upon themselves to make their own end-of-life decisions or have some say in how things will be done or won’t be done. It’s understood that partaking in the euthanasia process can be psychologically complexing and may go against family morals, values, and beliefs. In some countries, it is the younger family member’s duty to take care of their elderly parents or grandparents. However, is this a primary contributor to some young women’s lack of education or life success?

This is not to suggest that terminally-ill laypersons should seek physician-assistive expiry. Afterall, living to one’s fullest is the ultimate goal of actually living a full and satisfying life. It is to point out that most incurably and adversely ill persons would rather die with dignity. It is to posit that taking care of a sickly person is not easy. This goes for family members or those licensed and certified care professionals. You must be mentally, emotionally, and physically robust and unwavering. Taking care of others who fall into a fragile and dependent state is a tough job. Let no one tell you differently. It implicitly and explicitly takes a significant toll on a caregiver’s personal well-being and happiness. It could even drastically affect their health, as in frequent cases, caregivers forget to take care of themselves, thus engaging in self-care activities.

So, come your final days, there is a wealth of information to consider. Make decisions now, financially, and how and where you want to occupy your final resting place. Engage in the decision-making processes that have to do with your last days. Make choices. Talk about your death with family members. Death is the most highly avoided conversation ever because people are uncomfortable talking about the inevitable, “death.” As I stated before, if I become susceptible to being in a vegetated state or fall terminally ill, I highly recommend my family members honor my wishes. 

What about you? What are your end-of-life wishes? Have you really taken the time to consider it?

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