When it comes to end-of-life care, it is essential to ensure that the wishes of the individual are respected and fulfilled. Just as Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream for equality, individuals facing the end of their lives also have dreams and wishes that deserve attention and support. In this article, we will explore how caregivers can provide personalised end-of-life care to their loved ones, focusing on two crucial aspects: ensuring their end-of-life wishes are in order and helping them fulfill their bucket list dreams.
The Five Wishes
Starting the conversation about end-of-life wishes can be challenging, but it is a necessary step to ensure that families stay united during difficult times. The Five Wishes, a document created by Jim Towey of Ageing with Dignity, offers a solution to this dilemma. This document serves as a "living will with a heart and a soul" and covers five important questions regarding medical, personal, emotional, and spiritual needs.
1. Choosing a Health Care Decision Maker: The first question addressed by The Five Wishes is who should make healthcare decisions on behalf of the individual when they are no longer able to do so themselves. Selecting a trusted person to advocate for their wishes is crucial.
2. Medical Treatment Preferences: The document also allows individuals to outline their preferred medical treatments and procedures, as well as any treatments they do not wish to receive. This ensures that their wishes are known and respected by medical professionals.
3. Comfort Measures: The Five Wishes encourages individuals to express their desired level of comfort during their end-of-life care. This includes pain management, emotional support, and the presence of loved ones.
4. Treatment of the Individual: How individuals want to be treated by others during their end-of-life journey is another important consideration. This can include factors such as maintaining dignity, privacy, and the use of specific religious or cultural practices.
5. What Loved Ones Should Know: Lastly, The Five Wishes provides an opportunity for individuals to share personal messages, values, and wishes with their loved ones. This ensures that important information is communicated and understood by all parties involved.
The Five Wishes document has gained significant recognition worldwide, with over 18 million people having completed it. It is available for a minimal cost and has been translated into 26 languages and Braille. It meets the legal requirements for an Advance Directive in 42 states, and in the remaining eight states, it can be attached to the required forms.
The Terri Schiavo Case: The Importance of End-of-Life Care Documentation
To understand the importance of having end-of-life care wishes documented, we can look to the case of Terri Schiavo. Schiavo's story serves as a tragic reminder of the consequences that can arise when an individual's wishes are unknown. After suffering cardiac arrest at the age of 27, Schiavo was left in a vegetative state for 14 years. Her husband and parents engaged in a highly publicised legal battle over whether to continue life support or allow her to pass away peacefully.
Had Schiavo created a Living Will or completed The Five Wishes document, this contentious legal battle could have been avoided. By clearly expressing her end-of-life desires, the burden of decision-making would have been lifted from her family, preventing emotional and legal conflicts.
The Schiavo case highlights the need for open and honest conversations about end-of-life wishes and the importance of documenting those wishes legally. By doing so, individuals can protect themselves, and their families, and ensure their desires are respected.
The Dream Foundation: Fulfilling End-of-Life Dreams
In addition to ensuring that end-of-life wishes are documented, caregivers can also play a role in helping their loved ones fulfill their dreams before their time comes. The Dream Foundation, a nonprofit organisation founded by Thomas Rollerson, grants bucket list wishes to adults facing terminal illnesses.
Rollerson's inspiration came from a personal experience when he wanted to fulfill his partner's dream of watching the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire" before he passed away. Faced with limitations from other organisations that focused solely on children's dreams, Rollerson created The Dream Foundation to provide similar opportunities for adults.
The Dream Foundation has been operating for 17 years and has fulfilled thousands of wishes for adults with terminal illnesses. The organisation does not limit its support to specific diseases, ensuring that all individuals facing end-of-life can have their dreams fulfilled.
Dreams granted by The Dream Foundation range from simple joys to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Examples include reuniting loved ones after years of separation, providing luxurious experiences such as a stay at a five-star resort, or creating opportunities for cherished moments with family members.
The Importance of Simple Joys
While extravagant dreams may capture our imagination, it is often the simple joys that hold the most significance. The Dream Foundation recognises this and aims to create meaningful experiences that bring comfort and happiness to individuals during their end-of-life journey.
One example of a simple yet powerful wish fulfilled by The Dream Foundation was organising a 104-year-old's birthday party and reuniting the centenarian with his brother, whom he had not seen in 40 years. Another wish involved providing a state-of-the-art hearing aid to a dream recipient, enabling him to hear his grandchildren's voices clearly.
These seemingly small acts of kindness and fulfillment can have a profound impact on the well-being and emotional state of individuals facing the end of their lives. They remind us of the importance of cherishing and celebrating the moments we often take for granted.
Integrating End-of-Life Care and Dream Fulfillment
When it comes to providing personalised end-of-life care, the combination of documenting wishes and fulfilling dreams can create a holistic approach to supporting individuals during this challenging time.
Caregivers can start by having open and honest conversations about end-of-life wishes using tools like The Five Wishes. This document provides a structured framework for discussing important topics, ensuring that individuals' desires are known and respected.
Simultaneously, caregivers can explore opportunities to fulfill their loved ones' dreams through organisations like The Dream Foundation. By providing support and resources, caregivers can help create lasting memories and moments of joy for their loved ones, even in the face of terminal illness.
Personalised end-of-life care involves more than just medical support. It requires acknowledging and respecting the dreams and wishes of individuals facing the end of their lives. By documenting end-of-life wishes using tools like The Five Wishes and fulfilling dreams through organisations like The Dream Foundation, caregivers can provide comprehensive and compassionate care.
Just as Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream for equality, individuals facing the end of their lives also have dreams that deserve attention and support. By integrating end-of-life care and dream fulfillment, caregivers can create meaningful experiences that honor the lives and desires of their loved ones until the very end.