March 1, 2021
Submitted by Jason DeaBueno
Executive Director of Silver Key
End of Life Planning – A Necessary Conversation with Family and Friends
If you have not heard of the Five Wishes advanced care planning document, let me share with you why it is so valuable. My father’s 60-year-old roommate passed away from COVID-19 in July. To compound the issue, my father contracted COVID-19 and was in an intensive care unit for nearly three weeks.
These facts are not included in this blog to garner sympathy, nor to emphasize the impacts of the coronavirus on people, nor is this a political statement. Instead, the intention is to inspire people to move to action and open conversations with family and friends about how to achieve your advanced care wishes. Neither my dad’s roommate nor my dad had an end-of-life planning document completed to guide what their wishes would have been in the event of an untimely passing.
My teenage son is very caring, highly empathic and considerate of the plight of people in need. Because the roommate had no immediate family or friends, my son and I became the surrogates responsible to clear his valuables from the residence. After a grueling waiting period of about two weeks, we were instructed that we could enter the house, disinfect, and remove his belongings in prep for my father’s return home.
The roommate had not left any direction about how he would want to be celebrated or who he was connected to in terms of family and friends. In other words, he did not have an end-of-life care plan. At the exclusion of having his instruction, my son and I assessed that the best way for us to honor his past was to donate his items to one of the thrift stores in the community. Not surprising, each thrift store refused to accept the donations because he died by COVID-19 infection and there was worry that others could become infected. After several attempts to donate the items, it became evident that we had no other option except to destroy his personal items.
We took all his valuables that he had collected for years including an original Bronco-logoed game shirt, signed posters and many videos from the past to the local garbage dump. As my son and I emptied the overfilled truck, he said with profound insight “dad, this does not seem right that we are just throwing this man’s life away in a dump.” That statement made my eyes fill with tearful remorse and inspired me to champion a community cultural change about celebrating one’s end of life no matter who passes. The most effective method to do so is by inviting people to have open conversations about their wishes before death.
Five Wishes is an advanced care planning document inspired by the work of Mother Theresa that defends the right of all (and specifically) the elderly, disabled, and mentally ill to have their human dignity respected and safeguarded, particularly in times of serious illness. Five Wishes is a complete approach to discussing and documenting the care and comfort choices of people by sparking connections between family members and fostering effective communication with health care providers.
Five Wishes has been adopted as a legal advanced directive document in 44 states including Colorado. Silver Key Senior Services, a Colorado Springs based, not-for-profit organization; however, it is the first organization to carry the designation of Five Wishes Informed Organization. This designation is achieved by Silver Key committing to train its staff, volunteers, clients and community on the use of the document. Because “Aging is…All of Us!”, Silver Key is inspired to share Five Wishes with any person over the age of 18 who has not developed a plan of care. Planning is a gift to family and friends. Communicating your legacy, on your terms, is a personally empowering effort in these uncertain times.
The value of end-of-life care planning is well-documented related to managing the emotionality of patients, mitigating health and legal concerns, and reducing family discord when a person passes. The need for a culturally appropriate, end-of-life planning document is more evident now than ever due to the pandemic. People from all walks of life are hearing about the daily rates of loss of life and infections that are taking the souls of people across the globe. All the messaging about the power of the virus has caused people to be anxious, fearful for their lives, and worried about being a burden to others. Even before the pandemic, there was ample research on the importance of advanced care planning to empower patients, reduce family conflict and build resilience in the community.
In 2014, National Public Radio reported La Crosse, Wisconsin boasted that approximately 96% of people that die in the city have an end-of-life care document completed. The citizens of the community freely talk about death care in common conversations.
Moreover, the city enjoys the least amount of expense for end-of-life care than any other place in the country. La Crosse’s accomplishment inspires both Silver Key and me to focus on broadening the use of the Five Wishes document across Colorado, while also honoring the roommate’s life.
Call Silver Key today at
719.884.2300 or email email@example.com to learn more.
Silver Key is a Five Wishes Informed Organization
By Jason DeaBueno
Advanced Care Planning with Silver Key ~ (A Five Wishes Informed Organization)