More people in the baby boomer generation are reaching age 65 – some 10,000 a day until 2030 (Pew Research Center, 2010). I happen to be one of those this year. As usual, each milestone for my generation causes social change. The most recent to attract my attention is the book Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gwande. At first, I thought the primary reason for my interest was because of my occupation as a nurse practitioner, and how often I experienced the realities of Dr. Gwande’s book lived out in a nursing home where I worked prior to my retirement.
However, I soon learned that just like other previously unspoken topics, (think natural childbirth, fathers in the delivery room, menopause, sexual assault, etc.) my interest in death and dying is a trend. Boomers usually first get initiated into the end of life processes through the death of our parents or other family members. One thing gained from this experience is usually the certainty that we don’t want our last days to happen the same way. There are far too many loose ends.
When assuming responsibility for anyone during the end of life process, we are suddenly forced to realize how much we don’t know. For example: What legal/financial documents are needed or need completing? Where are they? What is the prognosis? What are the treatment options? How do I talk to someone who is dying? Where can I get help taking care of my loved one? How much will it cost? Does my insurance cover it?
Our society’s sanitation of dying and the discomfort with the topic has left us woefully unprepared for an event we know will inevitably occur. If we are sensible, we do not act like ostriches, but instead poke our heads out of the sand and explore this scary topic to learn the roadmap for what needs to be done before a crisis in our own life renders us unable to literally have a voice.
As with most issues of the boomers, we are not a passive group! Just as Lamaze classes taught us what to expect, more people realize that learning some details about an upcoming situation makes it less frightening. Having time to digest information and construct a personalized plan makes us calmer and feel more in control.
After reading Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gwande, I began to seriously look for tools to help me articulate and document how I would like my “Last Chapter” to be. To my delight, I’m finding workbooks that pose many questions and situations that have helped me write my wishes and enabled me to share them with my sons.
Probably the most important question for anyone is, “what happens when I die?” Knowledge of common fears, wishes, symbols, language, and behavior can help all of us to glimpse the important journey from this life to the afterlife.
I’m finding the stories helpful on a very practical level and reassuring on a spiritual level. Join WIN in learning the answers to the questions you have not yet thought about asking.
On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, from 1 P.M – 5 P.M., The Women’s Information Network, Inc. is hosting an event called “Life: The Last Chapter – Write Your Own Ending.” The event will include a panel of speakers, a light lunch, and workbook outlining the important documents needed for end of life decisions. Following the presentations, all speakers will be available for an informal question and answer session during a reception with light refreshments.
Registration is required and the cost is $20.00. This fee includes lunch, the program, and a workbook of materials. Call 706-506-2000 to register. Visit www.infoforwomen.org for more details.
Sharon Baker is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She is a retired nurse practitioner and is President and Founder of the Women’s Information Network, Inc. She lives in Rome, Georgia.