Giving yourself a voice: The gift of an advance directive

April 26, 2018

This piece is presented by Sanford Health.

Planning for end of life is essential, and while most people agree it’s important for others to know their end-of-life wishes, very few have an advance directive in place.

An advance directive not only helps provide answers to what you personally want during end-of-life care, but it also helps family members feel confident they are following your wishes.

“A long time ago, you never heard of such a thing as an advance directive,” said Lenora Bezpaletz, 86, a mother of two, grandmother of four and great-grandmother of two.

“My experience is that people don’t want to talk about death and planning for death. I think we have gotten better, but people are still uncomfortable talking about it. However, death is a very natural part of life. We are going to die, and if we have some feelings on how to do that well, we need to make that known.”

Ease the sting

As a nurse, Bezpaletz has seen firsthand the uncertainty families can feel when deciding end-of-life care. As a wife and a friend, she has been there as her loved ones have passed away and has helped those she loves navigate this difficult time of life.

“I know what it is to be at the bedside of a dying patient, to be there through the deaths of many loved ones. Because of my experience, I have made decisions regarding my own death, and I completed my advance directive several years ago,” she said.

“Seeing families just crying, the pain and heartache. The family disruptions can be really awful, and if an advance directive can take part of the sting of that out, that is a wonderful gift to leave your family,” Bezpaletz said. “I think it’s wise to plan for death, just as we plan for birth. All we can do is plan for the possibilities.”

Helps the family

While end-of-life care is not something most people want to discuss, having an advance directive is the best way to ensure a person’s wishes are followed. An advance directive ensures someone has control, even after losing the ability to speak or decide. In addition, it takes the burden off of family members. An advance directive clearly states and documents end-of-life desires, giving a family peace of mind.

“Last year, I went to a funeral class talking about writing an obituary, and the leader reminded us, ‘Just by getting these things written down does not mean you are going to die sooner.’ It is just housekeeping details. Just like if I was going away for a few months, I wouldn’t hesitate to indicate what I want taken care of in my home,” Bezpaletz said.

“It really is doing your family a favor, even if they don’t recognize it,” she added. “Do not just think about what you want, get it written down. Having that document will really be a blessing to them.”

Giving yourself a voice: The gift of an advance directive

An advance directive not only helps provide answers to what you personally want during end-of-life care, but it helps family members feel confident they are following your wishes. Here’s what you need to know about it.

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