Last month we had a health scare in the family – one that has me concerned about the future.
I received a call from my brother early in December about my mom. Shortly after arriving at the elementary school in Ridgeland where she works as an assistant teacher, she had nearly passed out and complained of shortness of breath. Thankfully, a couple of her fellow teachers rushed into action and, after consulting with my brother, took her to St. Dominic Hospital’s emergency room in Jackson.
A few hours later, we learned my mother, who has a history of heart disease, was being admitted for at least a few days with pneumonia. I learned the next day, however, there was more to it than that. My brother told me she actually has heart failure and her heart function was down to 15 percent (normal heart function should hover around 45 to 50 percent). The doctors told her she should see her cardiologist as soon as possible and prescribed some medications used on patients with heart failure. My mother, who is somewhat of a picky eater, was also told to change her diet and limit her sodium intake. To say the least, this news didn’t go over well.
This health scare brought to mind thoughts about my mom’s future and, at the risk of being morbid, got me thinking about her death. I wondered what plans she has made regarding a will, what kind of funeral or memorial service she wants and whether she wants to be buried in a casket or cremated like my father. After asking my brother and sister, I realized she hadn’t really told any of us.
It turns out many of us are in a similar situation. According to a 2014 American Journal of Preventive Medicine study, 74 percent of adults have no healthcare proxy, living will or advance directives and only 42 percent have a will, according to a 2017 Caring.com survey. We plan out so many details in our lives, but for some reason, the end of our lives is not one of them.
In 2015, my wife and I began preplanning our funerals. We had returned from Mobile following her father’s passing and, after seeing her stepmother struggle with having to plan his funeral with few details as to what he wanted, Shannon said she didn’t want us to be in that same situation. A few years later, and we dealt with the same type of stress on a grander scale when her mom was dying and there wasn’t even a will, much less funeral plans.
Soon, my brother, sister and I will sit down with our mom to have a conversation about the end of her life. It’s not a conversation I want to have, but it will help lift burdens off all of us.