As a registered nurse, I have been around death many times. I always experienced sympathy for patients and their families, but never fully understood what a family member goes through until I had my own experience with advance care planning and end-of-life care.
Advance care planning
When my mom was initially diagnosed with terminal cancer, talking about death or dying didn’t happen. When she was near the end of her life, I ended up being the point person for decision making. I had to try and communicate what she would like done. I had to make decisions on her behalf, which included taking more of a palliative approach to her care. These decisions are hard at any time but even harder when the choices are rushed due to a rapid decline in health.
After this experience, I had discussions with my grandparents about their wishes and end of life care. My grandma took this very seriously, signed a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR), and together we planned for different end-of-life situations. My grandpa, on the other hand, did not engage in these discussions. Flash forward a few years, and again, I with my family, was faced with making difficult decisions for my grandfather who could not speak for himself. We hoped we knew him well enough to make decisions he would have made for himself.
Since then, I have struggled with thoughts like: Did we fight hard enough? Did we give in to soon? Did he know how much he was loved? Did he know that we made the decisions we did with love?
Start your own advance care planning
I have taken these experiences into consideration and started my own advance care planning, because you never know what life holds! I also want to take some of the stress and angst away from my loved ones when that time comes, by sharing with them my values and beliefs. I want my loved ones’ focus to be on saying goodbye, spending time with me and not worrying about what to do.
Learn more about advance care planning and resources on the Northern Health website’s advance care planning page.