Empowered end of life care, to die with dignity.

One of the many opportunities of longevity is that we now have a more extended lifetime to make incremental life-stage decisions, including the choice to make our individual end of life plans. Despite this opportunity, most of us are reluctant to, or do not like to think about the eventuality of own death. If we do think about dying, we just cross our fingers and hope we will die asleep in own bed; or maybe somewhere else, comfortable, pain free, with dignity surrounded by loving family members.

Baby Boomers who have re-framed most cultural aspect of their lives from birth to retirement and everything in between are surprisingly slow to take the steps which would empower them to have more control of their preferred end of life care. Making personal care decisions and putting them in writing is a loving act of kindness to ourselves and for our appointed decision makers, but that planning takes time and thought.

At a very basic level of thoughtful concern – in Canada, a Power of Attorney for Property (both limited and general), Power of Attorney for Personal Care which are legal documents, and an Advance Directive (sometimes called a Living Will) which is a statement of preferred wishes, are tools to help people stay in control when they cannot speak for themselves. Each of the provinces and territories have their own style for these documents.

Advice from a lawyer and discussing decisions with your chosen executor make these directives more effective. The Ontario government has a booklet on-line A Guide to Advances Care Planning. Another source for information is Dying with Dignity, an organization founded in 1982. They offer an on line Advances Care Planning kit. Their web site has information on Canada’s right to die laws and information on assisted dying sometimes called End of Life Choices. This organization may not represent everyone’s idea of an end of life philosophy; but it does at least bring the term “dying with dignity” to public attention.
Take time to stay in charge, empowering end of life care and dying with dignity. Longevity is a gift – use it well.

Mary Ellen Tomlinson

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