Don’t Get Caught In The Middle!
Do you find yourself caught between caring for your children while wondering how you are going to help your parents through health and/or personal crises they may be experiencing? If so, it makes you part of the “sandwich generation” that I see every day in my community. It’s partly because people are having children later in life and seniors are living longer than ever before. This phenomenon is a relatively new thing in our society, and it raises some important issues, particularly as it relates to advance care planning and the actual completion of an advance directive.
Let’s start with young people who feel invincible, as most of us did at their age. But they are just as at risk as someone who is older of finding themselves injured and unable to express their wishes. It is why having an advance directive is extremely important for anyone 18 years and older. If you have a young adult in your household and he or she has not completed an advance directive, remind them that all the landmark legal cases (Quinlan, Cruzan, Schiavo) involved young people who also thought themselves invincible and did not make their wishes known. Completing an advance directive is also a great way for them to assert their control and independence by putting these decisions in writing.
Older people aren’t much more eager than young people to have “the conversation,” even though they may be closer to mortality than others less old. For them, you can demonstrate your commitment to the issue by telling them you yourself have completed an advance directive because you consider it a gift to your children. Emphasize the importance of their giving this gift to you too. For example, if one asks you what you’d like as a birthday or Christmas present, tell them you’d like the gift of peace of mind, and that is what their completing an advance directive would be for you. It is indeed a lasting and loving gift.
Sure, the holidays are an excellent time to have “the conversation” when family members gather at home to celebrate, but no law says you have to wait until then. Anytime is a great time and any place is a great place to deal frankly with these important life-and-death matters.
M. Jane Markley RN, MEd, FACHE is a consultant with over 30 years of experience in healthcare and is the president of M Jane Markley Consulting, LLC.