We've got to talk about THAT

Posted in Musings

We've got to talk about THAT

I sigh, (I do that a lot when I’m sad or depressed) as I open the fridge door after weeks away. Not because it’s a shambles. It’s because we “save for rainy days”. Why do we do that? I look at the shrivelled carrots, the drooping celery sticks and the blackened fine green beans. As I drop the pathetic looking remains of the Venison Salami and the rock hard wedge of Pecorino cheese, mouldy bottles of jams, syrups and pesto’s into the bin I wonder why we keep and "save" things to savour sometime in the future.

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I had a Grandmother who hid beautiful summer peaches so that we wouldn’t “scoff the lot in five minutes”. Instead, they rotted right there in their hiding place because we all forgot about them. All we had was the stench of soaked gangrened cardboard. Trying to find Ouma’s hidden gems was a favourite game we played once the dust settled after they closed the last squeaky gate on their way back to their farm. Our mouths watering when my Mom brought out the monkey nuts, raisins, dried peaches and guava rolls when friends arrived. We dribbled by the time my Dad had sliced our portion of beef biltong, each child receiving exactly one inch of the thinly sliced piece of deliciousness with its buttery strip of fat, a very special treat when we went to the Drive-in. The vintage cake tins of fruit cake, soet koekies (butter biscuits) and Beskuit placed so far out of our grubby reach we’d stare at them for hours. I’m sure much went to waste too; because, that, I’m afraid, is the nature of the beast.

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Our stash of biltong and droewors has dried out so much I’m sure polystyrene would taste better, the pieces snap in my hand as I rub at the white mould. Such a waste.

No, that’s got to stop right now. I put my foot down. From now on we’ll enjoy our treats as we buy them. I’ll savour the memory instead of tossing them into the bin once they’ve gone well past their sell by date or decay has set in. My last thought as I drag the black bag outside and dump the waste.  Now I know why my beloved looked so pale and wan when I saw him at the airport. Poor thing didn’t eat. He was like a pining pet, couldn’t face the fridge with all the delicious fresh vegetables, salami’s, cheeses, soups and winter fruits I’d lovingly selected for him. He probably managed to stay alive on pre-packaged dinners and a packet of apples, the remaining two looked like destitute refugees. He wouldn’t dare venture as far as 2 minute noodles and cup a’ soup.

In the past months I have had to say goodbye to friends, who, due to ill health, have had to move to sick bays and frail care centres, another who’s not been well since January, and is so frail she’s become bedridden. My bridge buddy, who only 3 weeks ago was still able to do the crossword puzzle, is desperately ill, with organs shutting down, her mind wandering, she’s virtually blind and deaf, her speech so garbled and incoherent as she labours to breathe. These things happen unexpectedly and like a thief rob us of life as we know it.

What they all have in common is that their lives are no longer their own, these once active, independent, vibrant women have become completely dependent on medical care, caregivers and their children. What they all would’ve wished for was to die with dignity without being hooked up to a drip waiting on futile test after test. I am sure that with hindsight, knowledge and understanding they would all have seen to a Living will, where their healthcare wishes would’ve been adhered to.

Which brings me to my second thought. Dying. If there’s one thing we’re all going to do it’s that. We’re going to pop our clogs, kick the bucket, and reach for the stars. How or when we do it remains the mystery.

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Butch often stresses that “A last will and testament” is exactly that, it’s the testator’s LAST. WILL. AND. TESTAMENT. You or I have no right to influence them, expect anything or demand anything. Should we be beneficiaries it would be a gift and we’ll all know the contents after the funeral. So as we update our Last wills and testaments we should also be giving a thought to some very important issues that have to be dealt with BEFORE the funeral, the run-up to the inevitable so to speak.
My most fervent wish is that my death will be swift, painless, dignified and without a fuss. I think we all do. Sadly, it’s the one thing we can’t order. We simply have to go with the flow. I sincerely hope the best possible treatment will be afforded me if I should become seriously ill, for that I trust my medical practitioner and Medical Aid. So on that score I doubt I could do more.

The best time for me to Spring Clean is just before I go on a holiday, I make sure my cupboards are tidy, all the spices have been checked and are stacked in neat colour coded rows, my floors are spotless and my house smells like a bouquet of spring flowers. That's when we tend to dig up the wills, insurance policies, we do a security checks and set off the alarm to spot check ABC.  My desk gets cleared and that terrible, stuck drawer gets tidied.  The car is serviced. Why I don’t know. Keys are found for all the doors. Finally,  I make sure I have an extra set of clean underwear ready in case of an emergency. Why? Well, when the final whistle goes you don’t want anyone saying your underwear was a little tatty do you?  My Mother would be mortified if she knew I didn't have a new set of pyjamas ready for.. the unspeakable.

And so we decided, after listening to our friends and families, who have been in this situation, to legally draft our Living Wills.

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Yes, we each have a Living Will. It’s to safeguard us and to stop our nearest and dearest from making difficult decisions on our behalf when we are not able or capable, due to ill health, mental or physical constraints. It’s such an emotional decision we can’t trust them to make the right choice on our behalf. How can we? How can we expect our spouses, partners, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren or friends to pull the plug on us? Our Doctors can’t, they’re bound by their Hippocratic Oath to keep us alive. Our attorney, accountants or bank managers can’t, they’ll be accused of conniving. The only institution that will ultimately assist will be the Medical Aid, when our benefits run out, that is.

It’s not difficult once one sets one’s mind to the reality. A trusted attorney will draft a written statement detailing a person's desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent.

A copy of my Living will was sent to my parents, siblings and children. My attorney has a copy and so does my G.P it’s my hope that I have made my wishes clear. Sir Roger Moore’s children said “The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone.” That surely must be our ardent wish too. Think about it, and don’t leave what surely should be your choice until it’s too late.

I have copied the following piece from the Internet:

“There are two fundamental documents that need to be executed during your life to ensure that you receive the kind of healthcare you want if you are ever incapacitated. The first is commonly called a living will an advanced directive, a patient advocate designation, or something similar. Regardless of their name, these documents allow you to instruct physicians and health care providers about the kind of health care you want and don't want if you are unable to tell them yourself. The second document sets out who has power of attorney for your healthcare decisions so that they may answer questions that may not be addressed by your living will.”

MTB, my attorneys, informed me that in accordance with South African law, the power of attorney will only be valid for as long as you are able to withdraw it. So if for example you fall into a coma, it will no longer be valid.

"Living Wills
The first document you need to create to ensure that your medical wishes are honoured is usually called a living will. This written document sets out how you should be cared for in an emergency or if you are otherwise incapacitated. Your living will sets forth your wishes re resuscitation, desired quality of life and end of life treatments including treatments you don't want to receive. This document is primarily between you and your doctor, and it advises them how to approach your treatment. Try to be as specific as possible in this document, realizing that you can't account for every possibility, which is where the durable power of attorney for health care comes in.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

The durable power of attorney for healthcare is given to the person you want to make medical decisions for you in an emergency. Even though you set out your wishes in your living will, such documents can never cover every circumstance, and the person who has a durable power of attorney for healthcare can make decisions not covered by your living will.

Keep in mind that the person with a durable power of attorney for healthcare can never contradict the terms of your living will. Rather, that person is there to fill in gaps, for situations not covered by your living will, or in case your living will is invalidated for any reason.

Other Names for the Power of Attorney for Healthcare and the Advanced Directive
Depending on your state, the person you grant a durable power of attorney for healthcare will typically be called your "agent," "proxy," "attorney-in-fact", "patient advocate" or "surrogate". The typical rights for this person include:
• Providing medical decisions that aren't covered in your healthcare declaration
• Enforcing your healthcare wishes in court if necessary
• Hiring and firing doctors and medical workers seeing to your treatment
• Having access to medical records
• Having visitation rights

Finally, note that in some states/countries they combine the living will and the durable power of attorney for healthcare into one document called an "advance health care directive".

Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNR)
One of the most important parts of your living will should indicate are your wishes regarding resuscitation. You can ask your doctor to add a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) to your medical records and you should also create a pre-hospital DNR to keep nearby to prevent paramedics or your health care facility from trying to resuscitate you.”
COPIED FROM: http://estate.findlaw.com/living-will/the-definition-of-power-of-attorney-living-will-and-advance.html

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