Oh No! Mom is Throwing Away Her Planning Papers!
"My mother has these papers from her doctor that he gives her at each appointment. The papers are all about planning for care choices, and they are a bit overwhelming. How important is it for Mom to fill them out? She keeps throwing them away."
This may surprise you, but the papers her doctor gives her are designed to help you and any other siblings you may have. If your mother fills them out, even if it is with your help, it may be easier in the future to care for her if the need arises. Sure, you could keep throwing these papers away, and many people do. But that does not make it a smart choice.
Let's talk about what those papers are and why she keeps receiving them. The papers she received are called Advance Directives. They allow your mother the ability to put into writing some decisions about her future while she is healthy and able to do so. That is it. Advance meaning "ahead of time, before I am unable" and Directive meaning "my directions." The term sounds ominous, but now you understand it is quite simple.
Her doctor is consistently giving her these papers because health care providers are mandated to, and it is a really good idea. With people living much longer now than a generation or two ago, many people require assistance as they get older to manage their care. Your mother could someday become one of those individuals who needs support.
Deciding who will make decisions if you cannot is a very smart idea. If the need arises, her doctor or other health care providers will then know who to turn to, just in case. It is important that the individual she chooses and the alternate agree with her choices. Let your mother know that the decisions she makes can be changed and are not in effect unless two physicians determine her to be incompetent. For now, she is calling the shots, and it is possible she may do so the rest of her life.
Your mother should do this now, while she is able-minded and thinking clearly. You simply cannot do this later if one’s mind is less clear.
So, make a cup of tea, and sit down with Mom. Try working on a page per day or week if you don’t have enormous blocks of time. It does not matter how you approach it. Let it be your mother’s decisions, not your opinions. And again, make sure that your mother understands she can change her mind at any time in the future.
When you have the forms filled out, make a few copies. The first set should go to her doctor. Ideally, each of her children has a set, with an extra set kept at her house in an obvious location in an envelope labeled “Advance Directive.” Also, a sign on the refrigerator identifying where all health information is stored is one of my favorite ideas.
I would like to mention that all health care providers will know what to do with the forms. Since there are many health care providers out there, and as of today we do not all have the same electronic record system, you will need multiple copies. Take a copy along any time she sees a new provider.
Now get to work with Mom, and guide her through the process. It is far less imposing than it appears.
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