Takeaways

Dearie: I’m old! I am closer to the end of my life than the beginning and I don’t feel a need to live an extraordinarily long life. I feel good about the life I’ve had and I enjoy remembering the good times. I do hope that I won’t have a long illness and I particularly don’t want to be a burden to my children. I do miss all my friends who have passed away. Lately that has been a very big part of my life. I am not afraid of dying, but I do fear that as I get older and I can’t do as much, I will be alone because all of my friends are gone.

Barbara: There are plenty of ways to understand the question of “What is important at the end of life?” It may be about wishes for medical care and/or treatments. Or it may be about what kinds of care one might need in a nursing home or memory care unit, perhaps. Many people do plan for funerals, burials and memorials. Each of these questions and answers would point in a different direction for answers and resources.

There are important legal and health care documents that everyone should have. These are your wills, powers of attorney, a health care directive, and a form called a POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment). And a recent interest in the health care field has been an Advance Care Directive for Dementia Care.

And about the end of life: Remember that an elder’s end of life is not news to her. She may be perfectly willing, and even welcome a conversation. In many ways, the question is simply how we say goodbye— which of course is not so simple. I’d look for any small opening of a conversation or idea. Or maybe you just need to be direct: “Mom (or Dad), I need to know more about what is important to you so I can do the right thing when the time comes. It will make me feel better to know.” And then say, “Mom, I love you a lot and will miss you.”