I was present at the death of my stepfather, Richard, on February 28, 2017, and his passing has impacted me greatly. I know Rich’s wife (my mom) has been affected by his passing even more than me.
Rich experienced a stroke in October 2016 that left him with aphasia, the inability to speak or verbally communicate except on a very limited basis. Even though Rich was 89 years old, he had spent his entire retirement years actively travelling and spending up to 8 hours a day, even up until the time of his stroke, translating Medieval Latin and Greek theological texts into English. Rich was a highly intelligent person and the loss of his capacity to express himself verbally was a death sentence because of the enormous reduction in his quality of life.
In 2012, Rich wisely had executed a physician’s directive and power of attorney that were still in effect at the time of his stroke. He specified that he did not want his life to be sustained through artificial means, and specifically, he did not want a feeding tube. Before Rich’s death, the nursing facility asked my mom about this, and she said that that was a decision he already had made ahead of time. It was an easy decision for her because Rich, when in his sound mind many years prior to the time of his stroke, had executed a document that allows a person to express his wishes for medical treatment anticipating that there may be some point in the future when he may be physically unable to express his wishes himself. This document is a physician’s directive, and my mom and I also were given Rich’s medical power of attorney so that we were authorized to communicate his wishes about his medical treatment to the care facility on his behalf.
My advice here is for you to discuss this matter with the people with whom you are closest, the people whom you list as your emergency contacts when you get a new job or sign a lease for example. If you want your life to be artificially sustained (i.e., life support), make sure you understand the costs of that continuing treatment (up to $300/day JUST for the bed at the nursing facility, which in Rich’s case was not going to be covered by Medicare). Also, I encourage you to research for yourself whether typically people recover after a feeding tube is inserted. Some do, and that is why I am limiting my advice here to this: discuss this issue with your loved ones, and once you come to decisions about end-of-life care, speak with me or another attorney about preparing a physician’s directive and medical power of attorney.