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My Voice, Her Decision

By Delaine
Posted on

I had the conversation with my parent.

It was extremely difficult to use my own voice to convey her wishes, her decisions that she could no longer communicate.
Mother lived 80 years; a life balanced with family, career, travel, music, and spiritual journeys. Through her nursing and public health careers, she had opportunities to see first hand how medical treatment can take its own course. At the end of her life, she wanted to be allowed to die a natural death. She was explicit about her decisions, “no blood, no dialysis, no feeding tube, and preferably, no surgery.” Mother’s gift to her family was to complete advance directives and to discuss her wishes openly long before experiencing significant illness. Later in life she developed a neurological disorder which progressed gradually over 13 years before suffering a stroke. The stroke impaired speech, swallowing, and paralyzed her right arm. In the hospital, her physician outlined two very different courses of treatment: aggressive or palliative. I knew she wanted comfort care, not a feeding tube and physical therapy. I have been a hospice social worker during my own career therefor had an informed understanding of what course her end-of-life may take. It was extremely difficult to use my own voice to convey her wishes, her decisions that she could no longer communicate. The only solace I found was recalling the many times she emphatically expressed these wishes, along with knowledge of my mother’s very strong will. She died peacefully with hospice care about two weeks following the stroke.

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