A few years ago, my great-grandfather’s health was deteriorating rapidly. He had been admitted to the hospital, given a two-month prognosis, and had been settled into his living room by hospice all within a week. The day after I arrived home from college to spend time with my grandpa, my uncle started a conversation with my mother, grandmother, and I about the game plan for my great-grandfather’s long-term care.
He laid out the basic logistics of what was currently going on with his care. He was being cared for by my family during the day with intermittent visits from nurses affiliated with our local hospital’s hospice. During the night, after the night nurse visited, my great-grandmother would try to sleep while my uncle stayed awake in case Grandpa needed anything. This would only work for the next couple of days, as my uncle had to go back home. We basically had three options: we could hire a night nurse to take care of grandpa, my mother and grandmother could take turns staying the night, or a combination of the two. Neither option was ideal, as a night nurse would cost my great-grandparents a considerable amount of money and my mother and grandmother had other engagements to balance. After about 15 minutes of discussing these logistics, we decided to revisit the conversation later to come to a conclusion. Unfortunately, a final decision was never come to because my great-grandfather died that night; surrounded by his child, grandchildren, and wife.
As a consumer, taking on logistics and costs is a difficult thing to do. Costs are high and emotions are strong. The stress of losing a loved one is high, and adding the subject of money onto that stress can be difficult for pretty much anyone. As consumers, it is important to know your options and rights, in order to navigate the decisions the way that serves you and your family best. My uncle did the research on what our options were, and he relayed them to the family. If you are a consumer that is considering starting a conversation about this, I would advise doing your research first. Being clear on all of the relevant information can make this difficult conversations less difficult.
A good place to start would be this website, that outlines the rights of the dead and dying.
Malpractice is clearly a huge issue in the medical field, and after reading the NPR article in the prompt, I now see it is far more prevalent than I believed it to be. The older sister of a close friend of mine survived serious malpractice which caused very heavy blood loss during surgery. She is still dealing with the consequences of that doctor’s mistake. I hoped that this was not a common occurrence, but the estimates range from 98,000 to 440,000 a year according to the article.
The first step to fixing this issue should be to get the numbers recorded properly. The second should be working for better accountability measures or more strict hiring/screening processes. The doctor which made a mistake in my example above had left a previous hospital for similar reasons, these types of things should not be allowed to happen. One would expect hospitals to avoid doctors like this at all costs, but he must’ve slipped through the cracks somehow.
Around a year ago, my mom was given legal control of my grandfather’s medical choices. He ended up passing because he refused to be treated at first, but he wasn’t coherent enough to make choices himself. He didn’t have any of the preemptive paperwork done, so my grandmother was making the decisions. She was too busy trying to take care of herself, because she lives in a very rural area, so my mom took over the medical and financial decisions. I know too many people who have had loved ones make bad decisions for them because they were scared of what could happen, or too unwilling to listen to the doctors. With this in mind, the family that know how I would like to be treated aren’t necessarily going to follow that plan. I’ve spoke to my sister about how if I lose my mental capacity, i should be let go. I’m not quite sure my parents would let that happen, so I’ll probably get an advance directive filled out myself.
As you’ll hear if you head over to Canvas and listen to the recording of today’s conference/chat session, today I attended a memorial for the brother of close friends. It made me think about the individual choices we have – and CAN make – as consumers, and how difficult that decisionmaking and choosing IS for many of us.
As I noted in the recording, you have access to a Content Page on Illness and Mortality Matters, but I want to call out a couple of the resources included there.
First, take a look at the FAQ page of the Honoring Choices website. It’s a really good place to start for folks wanting to learn more about this important aspect of life and how best to make sure their own wishes are known and respected. Here comes a challenge….
CHALLENGE: After reviewing Honoring Choices information, have a conversation with someone you love (OR have an imaginary conversation with that person). How do you start the conversation? What do they say? What does it feel like to take this step as a consumer?
Post your reply by PW deadline of NEXT Friday July 21, or LC deadline of Sunday July 23. Use your username and Challenge as tags, and choose the Challenge category!
NOTE: If thinking about death and dying is hard for you, I understand. It’s hard for all of us, and in my family we tend NOT to discuss it (or our options) at all. It’s simply TOO difficult for some of my family members. I really wish it wasn’t that way, because I know there’s going to be a time when I will simply have to deal with the dying and deaths of my parents. And I know that would be just a little easier if we’d shared our thinking and wishes in advance. Btw, I intend to take myself up on this challenge. I think I’ll be doing the imaginary version. But that will help prepare me to push again to hold a REAL conversation and become an active, healthy consumer in this area of life….