Mom, We Gotta Talk

by Lila Lazarus

I’ve said it a dozen times, but I still don’t think my Mom has heard me.  It’s not because she’s hard of hearing, she just doesn’t want to listen.  The conversation goes like this:

“Mom, we should really go see a lawyer and talk about granting me power of attorney for your property and also your health.”

“Why would we do that?” she asks, as though we’ve never had the conversation before.  “I’m perfectly healthy.”

At 85, she is remarkably healthy, though her speech and memory are not the same. She’s slowing down and, frankly, I’m scared and don’t want to wait too long.

My Mom, on the other hand, can’t understand why we have to have this conversation again. She wants to wait until she’s old. So again I attempt to get her to agree to the appointment, saying it’s not because she’s old, but because no one lives forever. And it’s so much easier to get through this process before there are any serious changes. It will be a lot more difficult to navigate the process if we’re under stress or overly emotional or if we’re trying to make it happen from a hospital bed. And a lawyer will know the right questions to consider and the proper documents to complete. She’s not having it.

These conversations aren’t easy. But, in the long run, I’m fully aware that not having them is even harder. If we could just get through this process, I know it will ease the burden and guilt and potential struggles looming on the horizon.

Getting a durable power of attorney for her property will allow me to make sure Mom’s bills are paid and her bank account is in order when she’s unable to. I won’t have to say, “If only I had talked to her about this.” It will be done. It’s a one-time process. “Please Mom,” I beg her. She’s ignoring me.

“It’s so important to choose a person ahead of time,” I tell her.  “Someone who can make the decisions, who has your best interest at heart.”

Mom:  “Can we please talk about something else?”

What I really want to take care of is her medical power of attorney—so that I can help with her medical decisions if suddenly she’s not able to speak or think. While she has four children, I’m the only one who lives near her and I want to be her medical proxy, the person who can make those key decisions when she’s not able to. And even though she thinks she’s “too young” to think about this, every one of us should have a person we designate to make our decisions when we can’t – no matter how old we are. Accidents can happen at any age.

Then, there are the other questions she doesn’t like to answer:

“Mom, would you want to be kept alive on a feeding tube and wires if you have no quality of  life?”

“Why do you want to talk about something so horrible?” she chides.  “I’m not dead, yet.”

“Mom, the idea is to get the answers before you get that far.”

I really need to know if she wants CPR or other medical interventions after doctors say there’s nothing to hope for. What are her end-of-life wishes? I have no idea. Most of us haven’t asked the tough questions of the people we love most. We all know it’s important, but we don’t do it.

That open and honest conversation with your family members and your doctor is so critical before a crisis happens. And a crisis will happen. None of us gets out of here alive.

Thus far, I’ve had zero luck talking about anything we need to talk about. But here’s my list and I’ll keep trying. Take a look and see if you have more luck than me with the important people in your life.

Do you have a power of attorney for property and health care?

How do you feel about life support?

Do you want to donate your organs?

Are all your beneficiaries up to date? 

What insurance policies do you have? 

What kind of funeral or memorial service do you want?

Do you want to be buried or cremated?

Postscript:  My Mom just called and asked what I was doing. I told her I was writing an article about her. She asked me to read it to her. I did. She laughed and said, “If you really want to know the answers, why didn’t you ask me?” She proceeded to answer all the questions. She’ll grant me power of attorney, including medical proxy. She’s not into overdoing life support. “What’s the point?” she said. She wants to donate her organs. As for burial? “Don’t rush me,” she said. “I’m not sure yet.” I’ll have to come back to that one.

I asked my Mom one last question that you might want to ask your family member, too: “Mom, do you know that I love you?”

“I love you, too,” she said.

Now it’s in writing.

Lila Lazarus PhotoLila’s Health Report:
In order to stay healthy, you need to stay active and engaged. In addition to exercise, good nutrition and sleep, you also need a good dose of adventure. So each month I’ll share ways to boost the excitement and passion in your life with adventurous ways to create more wellness in your body, mind and your spirit.

2 thoughts on “Mom, We Gotta Talk”

  1. I enjoyed reading this, and I think these conversations are never really too early to have, as difficult as they may be.

    Being an only child, my parents have had a similar conversation with me (although, at the time I felt I was much too young to be hearing this but they had been dealing with it with their parents) regarding passwords for accounts, insurances they have, where money was located, etc. We haven’t gotten to the Power of Attorney, organs or funeral, but I’m glad I have a general idea of whats going on and where to find what – even if I’m only 26 years old.

    Thank you for this article.

  2. We took my mom to a “seminar” about advanced directives, and it was the catalyst we needed to start the conversation. We still have a few unanswered questions (she is only 91 after all) but we have at least started the conversation. Thanks for posting this.

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