It is impossible to overstate the importance of having that sit-down, dreaded conversation about end-of-life choices. This is something we all want to put off, but when it comes down to dealing with a loved one living with dementia, cognitive time is limited.
The truth of the matter is that this conversation will benefit all parties involved: patient, caregiver, and other family members.
Let us begin by looking at its effect on caregivers. By knowing that we are carrying out our lived ones’ final wishes, a huge weight is being lifted during an extremely difficult time.
Imagine the patient’s relief when we assure them that the concluding length of their journey will be carried out as they wish. It is a blessing to all concerned.
As for the patient, the fact that this conversation has taken place will alleviate a tremendous amount of strain. Maintaining as stress-free an environment as soon as possible is a high priority. This is one of the first thing a physician experienced with dementia related diseases will tell their patient. “Try to remain stress-free.”
Everyone deserves to have their wishes heard. If it is your wish let your family know that if you become too much of a burden on them, it is OK to place you in a nursing community. Having this subject understood early may save your family from possible infighting and making wrong decisions. If you want to remain home to the end, this needs to be stated as well.
Do you want your final resting place to be in your hometown or somewhere else? Are you a veteran? Is it your desire to have a military honor service and remains interred in a National Veterans Cemetery?
There are so many conversations that need to take place. For instance, what about advance directives? And who would you want to make medical and financial decisions for you in the event you are not able? What about driving privileges? Lay everything out on the table.
If you do not have family, you should be telling this to a dear friend and always to an elder law attorney.
If you are the one living with dementia, there is going to come a time when you are no longer able to make your own proper decisions. Ironically, one of the symptoms involved here is poor decision making.
I am not trying to rush anyone into this. I understand these are profoundly important issues. Take some time to think about it, but please realize the with dementia, procrastination is something to avoid. When these important conversations are over, I believe you will experience some inner peace.
Just because someone has dementia does not mean he or she does not have a lot of life to live. Concentrate on that.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc
Dementia Spotlight Foundation