Though I am adopted, I like to say that I “inherited” the gift of gab from my Mom, even though it didn’t come about naturally. I guess you could say it was an environmental influence. There never was a lack of communication at our family gatherings. And I’m willing to bet that most of you can relate.
When we gathered around the dining room table, whether for meals or board games or just to have a cup of coffee and pass the time, conversation flowed easily. After I became a registered nurse, I would talk about my new career with my parents and convey all of life’s lessons I was learning. Of course, the gift of gab allowed me to connect with my patients on a more personal level. Over time, as my career changed, so did our dining room table conversations.
I remember it well. At our usual seats around the table, my Dad across from me and my Mom to my left, I brought up the topic of advance directives. I asked them if they had ever talked to each other about emergency situations or what they would want if something was seriously wrong with either one of them. What if they couldn’t speak for themselves? My Dad was the first to say he didn’t want any type of machines keeping him alive and that when he died, he wanted to donate his body to science. My Mom wasn’t so quick to make up her mind. She needed more information and discussion. Who would make decisions? What type of decisions are there to make? What exactly is life support and would she want it or are there times she wouldn’t want it at all? My Dad’s mother had a devastating stroke, so they had experience with that situation and choices they had to make. But what about a sudden cardiac arrest or a terrible accident, what other situations were there to discuss? What about a terminal illness? I felt very comfortable with this conversation because of my experience with patients and their families in Intensive Care. It was easy to relate to the choices and decisions I saw first-hand and share these stories with my family.
By the time we finished our discussion, it was clear what they wanted based on what they valued and what it meant to “live” their life. And then we moved on to the rest of our day.
This conversation is important for all families. So, the next time you gather around the table with your family and your gift of gab, tell them about this article, start talking about medical decisions and decision makers, and allow some time for discussion. After you’ve talked it through, follow through with a written advance directive and share it with your family and healthcare provider.
“Family isn’t an important thing. It’s everything.” Michael J. Fox