WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2012/2013

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

Issue link: https://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/92498

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Page 79 of 203

From the moment our journey begins, our lives are filled with memories that we cherish and look back on with those we love. during his final days, allowing us to ask specific questions of Bernie's health care team regarding his prognosis, rather than arguing among ourselves by his bedside and from afar, to determine what we felt was best for him. It allowed us to focus on Bernie and to celebrate his life, while mourning his passing. In a time and place when people are living longer and dying more slowly, being intentional about having these conversations can make it possible for each of us to proactively choose how we want to live our final days, which can extend, in some cases, over several years. It can also make it easier on the family members and friends that may be called upon to make our health care decisions for us. Unfortunately, too often there is a disconnect between the type of medical care that people want and the actual treatment they receive when they are faced with a dramatic decline in the quality of their life. The reason? Planning often takes place too late, in emergency situations, rather than when people have the time and space to thoughtfully digest the issues and consider the options. "The barriers to effective planning are many, including the difficulty of the conversation, the feeling of being overwhelmed by the legal process, and simple procrastination," Feigenbaum observes. Drawing from over 25 years of experience in helping families through this process, Feigenbaum will also tell you that, "It doesn't have to be oner- ous; it can be a very positive, reassuring experience. " 78 When is the right time to begin these conversations? "Now," says Ellen Goodman, the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who recently helped launch The Conversation Project, a movement whose goal is to have every citizen's end-of-life wishes expressed and respected. "It's always too soon [to have these essential discussions] until it's too late, " Goodman observes. By jumpstarting the conversation, primarily through storytelling, The Conversation Project, which Goodman co- founded along with Harvard's Institute for Healthcare Improvement, was formed to make it easier to talk about a subject that is often con- sidered taboo. "There is a conspiracy of silence around this issue which leaves too many people blind sided," Goodman explains. "The fact is there is a 100 percent chance that we will all experience mortality at some point in our lives." But when should these discussions really begin? From a legal per- spective, Feigenbaum suggests that people begin the conversation when they turn 18. While this recommendation may sound shockingly premature, here is the rationale: serious medical events can happen at any time. A famous case, Karen Ann Quinlan was 21 years old when she fell into a coma, and lived on in this condition for almost a decade. If the necessary documentation is not in place, adult children may not be able to have their families involved in their health care decisions should they become incapable of making decisions for themselves. In this scenario, medical decision-making is left to the discretion of the WellesleyWeston Magazine | winter 2012/2013 P A HA_L / D REAMSTIME .COM

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