Make the Difficult Conversations Easy with Delaware Hospice
When Nicole Fullmer’s husband died of a heart attack at age 43, she realized the importance of having an Advance Directive.
“When it came time to plan his funeral, his family didn’t know what he had wanted but I did since we talked about it as husband and wife. The disagreements over the funeral completely fractured our two families,” she says.
This family’s situation created more loss than that of a husband, father, and son. Fullmer’s children lost connections with family due to the strains of not having an Advance Directive left. Since her husband’s death, Fullmer has become the executive director of Honoring Choices® Delaware, a nonprofit organization founded by Delaware Hospice. Through her work, Fullmer encourages people to think about what they want at the end of life and to discuss it with family and friends, so her personal experience doesn’t happen again.
Advance Directives are written legal documents outlining healthcare wishes if someone becomes unable to speak for themselves. It’s simple to complete and can be modified at any time. Anyone 18 or older can and should consider completing the document. Those without an Advance Directive will have their clinical team make medical decisions if they become incapacitated.
An Advance Directive can be a Living Will, a Healthcare Power of Attorney, or a combination of the two.
“It’s really a gift for your loved ones,” Fullmer says. “It relieves a burden for them, and gives you an opportunity to talk about your wishes at the end of life.”
It’s important to revisit your Advance Directive to make sure it is still accurate and meets your needs. Fullmer says to remember the following life events as signifiers to do a checkup, also referred to as the five D’s:
An Advance Directive can include what may seem obvious like wishes for hospice care or at home treatment, to resuscitate or not and to be cremated or buried. But it can also include little things like having your hospital bed sheets tucked in or to not be dressed in yellow at your funeral.
Fullmer agrees that this can be a difficult thing to discuss with family and loved ones but doing it sooner rather than later can save a lot of frustration and heartache.
“Completing your Advance Directive and having these conversations with loved ones can really strengthen family relationships,” she adds.
Delaware Hospice and Honoring Choices® Delaware can assist families by making this difficult conversation easy. The organizations help you answer the who, what, when, where, why and how to create the proper environment for the discussion.
Social workers, chaplains, nurses, and trained volunteers go through exercises to find out what is most important to you, Fullmer says. Once you begin, it just flows. And your family and loved ones will be happy you did when the time comes to say goodbye.
“Because when you do pass on, they’re the ones left to move forward,” Fullmer says.
Delaware Hospice is the leading licensed nonprofit community-based healthcare organization serving Delaware and Pennsylvania’s Chester and Delaware counties. For more information, visit delawarehospice.org.