One of the most challenging moments for many of us Baby Boomers is when we know that we must have, “the conversation”. This is the talk with our parents or parent about their wishes for care as life winds down.
You know, the advance directive and health care power of attorney talk. The wishes talk. The talk that, in many ways, solidifies the transition in roles between parent and child. Hopefully, this conversation can be held with a sense of love and purpose; celebration even. God willing, it is done with years of life ahead. Given the shape of technology and our longevity, however, not to have this conversation (and to review it regularly) courts emotional upheaval.
This issue arose again during the debate over the health reform act. The provision to support these conversations between doctor and patient became political fodder. Happily, these conversations take place with growing regularity in those doctors office, as well as living rooms and clergy offices. The value and need for these conversations was reinforced again in the lead editorial “Care at the End of Life” on Sunday Nov 25 in the New York Times.
The editorial spelled out a reasoned case for this issue to be at the front of the on-going debate on health reform. Look for more of this as the debates over Medicare and Medicaid costs continue. As the editorial stated regarding these advance planning talks: “There is good evidence that, done properly, it can greatly increase the likelihood that patients will get the care they really want. And, as a secondary benefit, their choices may help reduce the cost of health care as well.”
The time is now for religious congregations to incorporate into their schedules regular programs that teach how a particular tradition approaches and supports how to make decisions in light of the end of life.
What does a tradition say about technology, palliative care, hospice and the host of issues that an individual and a family will face; from how to plan for a funeral to how to maintain a person’s dignity?
This issue is part of our life now and, given the twin realities of technology and longevity, will continue to be a part of an ever increasing number of family discussions.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min.