Living wills. Life support. Do-Not-Resuscitate. These are all phrases that I used frequently working in an adult medical intensive care unit. I rarely had trouble using the words death, dying, hospice, or end-of-life with patients and families.
However, outside of the hospital, these words have been a lot harder for me. My parents do have living wills and have expressed their wishes to me, but not because I initiated any discussion with them. In fact, I’ve actually avoided those conversations despite knowing how important they are.
There is not really a good time to have end-of-life discussions, so people tend to wait for the "right time" which often turns into the "wrong time" or "too late." The conversation might end up taking place in the hallway of the emergency department or in a critical care waiting room. Sometimes, information is conveyed and decisions are even made over the phone.
I am fortunate that my own family members have insisted on preparing for the end of their lives and sharing their plans and wishes with me. As a daughter, I really don’t like to hear about it. As a nurse, I know that this is a very good thing.
Saturday, April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Make this day the "right time" to talk with your loved ones and encourage the patients you care for to do the same.