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Dčjá vu

I stood in the hospital emergency room with my mother, the ER doctor and the social worker. My mother and I brought my 91-year-old grandfather in just a few hours earlier. The next few words spoken by the social worker immediately jerked me back seven years to the night my father passed away. The same hospital, the same little group: my mom, and I with two healthcare professionals and the very same question, “Does he have a Living Will?”

I know the implication of these words was not lost on my mother either. My Dad was literally on his deathbed, having battled Multiple Myeloma for the previous year and a half. He made his wishes about his end of life decision known, but we could never actually face seeing them become real on paper. Somehow, those papers were never signed. However, I slipped a copy into my back pocket, finally realizing that perhaps we would need to face the inevitable only hours before his passing. My mother came to a similar realization. She asked me if I knew where we could find a copy of his living will. I’ll never forget the expression on her face when I produced the papers on the spot. I still don’t know if it was surprise or horror. Perhaps a combination of the two. She signed as my father’s power of attorney and perhaps realizing that the last piece was in place for his departure, my father passed away within the hour.

So, you would think that seven years later, we, of all people, would be prepared to answer that same question. After having created a magazine for caregivers, after convincing people through national television and radio shows across the nation to have living wills in place for themselves and their loved ones, after being caregivers for my grandparents for the past four years, you’d think we would be prepared. You would think that we would have microfiche copies of my grandfather’s living will in each of our wallets. You’d think that the papers would have been signed years ago, since, not unlike my father my grandfather had also let his wishes regarding his end of life be known.

The truth is, we looked at each other as if the past seven year gap in time was mere minutes and we suffered the same agony we suffered all those years ago. Thankfully, we didn’t need the papers, my grandfather is doing well.

If I can wish anything beyond health and happiness for you and your loved ones, it is that you take the time to have your loved one’s Living Will, Healthcare Surrogate and DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) wishes legally represented. And for the sake of your loved ones, fill out these forms for yourself, as well. Then, hopefully, all of your déjŕ vu’s will be sweet ones.

Gary Barg
From the book: The Fearless Caregiver

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