Webster UCC to Host “Courageous Conversations,” on End of Life and Living
By Dave Polley, member of Webster UCC and WTHS.
My father died shortly after Thanksgiving three months ago. His life ended according to his stated wishes: at home, with family, and without medical interventions to prolong his life. As the doctor said, “Your heart is exhausted.” My mother was accepting, my siblings did not argue, there was no, “What if…? nor “Why aren’t they…?”.
We owe the “ease” of those five days of dying for my father largely to a workshop I attended this past summer with Dr. Shahid Aziz, a hospice and palliative medicine specialist from Rockville, MD. The workshop was entitled “My End of Life Wishes and Living Plan”. I jumped at the chance to attend, thinking of my aging parents who had increasing health problems.
My sister and I had begun conversations with our parents eight years ago. They had a will, a living will, DNAR (Do Not Attempt Resuscitation), designated Powers of Attorney – but I sensed that something was missing. Upon hearing of Aziz’s workshop, I jumped at the chance to attend, thinking of my aging parents who had increasing health problems.
In that hour-long presentation, Dr. Aziz challenged us to write down the minimal levels of physical and cognitive functioning each desires to live with including the use of medical assistance. Below that level, artificial methods and means would not be used to prolong life. A scale was given with some nuances that I would not have known coming from a non-healthcare field. I am thinking “Finally, something concrete -- some direction -- if this… then that.”
Aziz shared his uncle’s end of life plan and how that written plan brought comfort to his widow each time she started to second guess if more could have been done. The known stages of Alzheimer’s Disease progression was also shared and taken into account.
I took the worksheets to my parents and with much discussion and some arguing between the two of them a personalized end of life and living plan was developed for each of them. The completed/ signed/ dated plans were posted at front door, backdoor, glove compartment, given to doctor, lawyer, pastor, and each sibling with the understanding that these wishes could be changed by the person at any time. We followed this plan for my father’s final days.
Dr Aziz will be presenting via Zoom at Webster United Church of Christ, 5484 Webster Church Road, Dexter, MI on Saturday, March 14 at 4 PM. Seating is limited so one needs to register at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those wanting to continue the conversation, a soup and bread supper will follow in the Fellowship Hall.
This is the first of several workshops in conjunction with the Webster Township Historical Society. The other workshops will focus on senior housing from home, assisted living, nursing home and other options and the various legal documents at end of life including living wills, health care advocate, and Powers of Attorney.