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An Interview with Susan Morse (Page 4 of 4)

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An Interview with Susan Morse


Susan Morse: I will never forget being at an assisted living facility talking to the admissions person.  At that point, I did know I was writing a book and so I asked, “Is there one piece of advice that you would give families when they’re dealing with an elderly parent?”  Her one piece of advice was first of all, have documents with advanced directives, a medical power of attorney and a living will.  It really helps if somebody is designated as the financial power of attorney and someone else is designated as the medical power of attorney, if there are advance directives about what the elderly person wants for the end of their life—what interventions, machines or treatments.  When you have those documents, it helps so much if you can choose one person for each one. It doesn’t even have to be a family member. Choose one person who is the designated person in each document, as opposed to a group of people or two people. What they have found is that often, when it is a group of people, the parent may have done that because they didn’t want to choose a favorite or they didn’t want to burden just one person with the difficult decision or responsibility.  What happens is when it’s a group of people who don’t agree or have a hard time finding time to discuss it together and come up with a decision, the elderly person, the facility and their doctors are waiting and waiting. Sometimes, that’s really not good for the patient to have to be in limbo like that.  Just the idea that people have to talk to each other can paralyze everybody.  And it’s not even really picking a favorite as far as I’m concerned. If you pick somebody to be the person that has to make those decisions, you’re almost picking the loser.

Gary Barg: That’s a great point.  You don’t want to have some inner sibling rivalry before Mom goes into surgery.

Susan Morse: In our case, the family was happy to have me be that person because they wouldn’t have to do it.  But I’ve seen families where somebody is that designated person and the rest of the family doesn’t agree with what they’re doing; that can be painful.  I think the more families can actually get out in the open and talk to each other, including the elderly person, and really talk about their feelings about the different kinds of issues that they imagine might come up, the better for everybody to be on the same page when it comes down to it.  We’re all so afraid, we’re all so shy about talking about it. You don’t want to say to your father or mother, “What do you want us to do with you when you die?” or  “Do you want us to pull the plug?”  You just have to get over that.  You have to, but it’s very hard. 


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