Today’s blog comes to us from Karen Beckford, who is the Program Director for AzHHA’s Thoughtful Life Conversations. Ms. Beckford shares her insights about the importance of having the conversation many of us put off for far too long……about end of life care. Once you’ve had a chance to read Ms. Beckford’s thoughts, we’d love to hear yours. Generating conversations around the health issues affecting the people of our state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!
Have you ever volunteered or accepted a situation that you have no idea what it is going to be like, but you think you have an idea, and you say to yourself “I got this” even when you know you still have a lot to learn? Well, welcome to end of life, communications in serious illness, advance care planning or no planning!
I was honored to be chosen for the position of Program Director for Thoughtful Life Conversations (TLC) for many reasons. But my biggest reason was that my family had 2 deaths back to back. Both members of my family (spouses) had a completed last will and testament, but no healthcare power of attorney that designated a person to make decisions for them if they were not able to or a living will sharing what their wishes were if a medical crisis occurred. While their finances were covered, the choices for their care to be carried out when they were unable to speak for themselves was nowhere in sight. I know they wouldn’t have wanted to experience what they did medically at the end of their life, but we didn’t have documentation.
My family had what I call “kitchen table talk” about their wishes at end of life, but nothing was documented and when decisions had to be made, no one could make the “correct (ie: his wishes) decision. No family should be in the same predicament as my family. Working with Thoughtful Life Conversations, I have seen community members take documenting their wishes seriously and save their own families the heartache that my family experienced.
What I have learned, experienced and been able to teach and share with families who do not want to be in the same predicament has been invaluable. Through our Thoughtful Life Conversations program, we have been able to touch many, impact change and impart knowledge about how to have these difficult conversations with their families, loved ones and physicians to have their wishes honored at the end of life if they are unable to speak for themselves.
Seeing the change in people’s perception about having these conversations and hearing their feedback that the trainings have provided the tools in which to speak to their families. Complete their living will, healthcare power of attorney, Prehospital Medical Care Directive and mental healthcare power of attorney and the confidence to know that their wishes will be honored is empowering and freeing at the same time. Not only is it freeing for the family, but for the person who is letting their wishes be made known.
I find hope in the fact that what happened in my family doesn’t have to happen to YOUR family. TLC offers training in advance care planning and can assist you with the tools needed to make a thoughtful and sometimes difficult conversation easier. Our trainings offer creative approaches and self-reflection exercises that can be productive and inspirational at the same time. I am fortunate that my stepping into the “unknown” has given me the power and knowledge to not allow another friend or family member go through what our family went through-now I REALLY GOT THIS!
Please don’t you be the ones doing the “kitchen table talk” with nothing written out yet expecting your loved ones to know your wishes…Remember, it is never to early until it is too late.