A Special Presentation by Yvonne Baginski on May 20, 2019
My dad died on March 18. He died alone. An unknown caregiver at his side, in an assisted living apartment he had moved into just three weeks earlier. He died in pain. He suffered.
I wish it was different. But he wanted to live his life his own way. And, at the end, his way was no longer working well. So, when his children came to help, he argued, resisted and refused to believe the reality that he was old, frail and dying.
He was 90 years old. A Holocaust survivor, he trusted no one. A Ph.D biochemist, he knew more than any doctor. He filled his cupboard with vitamins, minerals and supplements. They were his hedge against his body breaking down from cancer and the cells multiplying into his bones.
There is an irony of having a daughter whose lifelong work has been working with aging people at end of life, and never wanting her advice or any interpretation of her knowledge. I am that daughter.
In the end, his final words to me were: “you’re going to die, too.”
He is right.
But I am not wishing my life ends differently. I am making sure it does.
I am talking to my family. Instructing my children. And, making sure that all documents are organized, accurate and up to date. I have documented what to do if I lose cognitive ability, I have talked with family about possibilities, and most of all, I am making sure that what I wish will not impede or destroy the lives of those I love. At least not much. I have to face the fact that not everything is under my control.
One day, I know that I will not be able to drive. I suspect, too, that my mind will continue to decline and that those few words I can’t remember every so often, will become sentences, paragraphs and eventually pages of reality I can no longer understand. If I get cancer or heart disease, I might have to make decisions about treatment and longevity of suffering. But mostly, I have to face the reality that I will not be living into my 80’s and 90’s in the same condition that I am in my 60’s. That is so.
Of course I also worry about the money. How much my preferences will cost, whether the money will run out, and will there be anything left to pass on to my children?
I am no different than you.
But, maybe I have more knowledge, or understanding of what it’s like in the last part of life. I have walked that path with over one thousand people in my lifetime.
That’s why I created Share the Care Napa Valley. I know that there are many people like my dad. People who haven’t planned, or thought of, or even realized that one day they will be struggling with a set of circumstances brought on my aging, disease and fraility. And, that’s the time when a family member calls Share the Care and asks for help.
On Monday, May 20 from 10 a.m. to noon, Share the Care will be hosting an event that can help all of us make plans, or at least think of, what we might want to happen in the last part of our lives. “Who Will Care for Me If I No Longer Can?” will be an information and resource event held at the Napa Elks Lodge, 2840 Soscol Ave. Tickets are just $10 at the door. That ticket is an investment for the knowledge of what you need to do to make it better for not just yourself, but everyone else in your life.
But knowledge isn’t everything. There is also the ability to act on it.
I know because my dad, refused to act. He truly believed that the right combination of supplements would make him immortal. Or, at least give him another year or two of life.
The sad part was that his intention of not wanting to be a burden to his children only intensified as he went from hospital to nursing home, and then to assisted living.
We knew that he always wanted to be in his own home. But, he got caught in the “system of care” that is now a standard practice for old people who are hospitalized after a fall. It is automatic. And, without a voice or an advocate, people believe what they’re told by discharge planners and case manager is their only option for care.
There are other options. But they must be planned for and discussed far in advance. Come, learn more. It’s not just about dying…it’s about living the way you want in the last part of your life.
See you there.
Yvonne Baginski, Director, Share the Care Napa Valley