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Advanced Care Directives: Using Your Therapist To Help

Three years ago, when I was first diagnosed, my husband and I scrambled together to put together our estate plan, including creating a trust for our children, writing out our wills, and creating our advanced care directives. We used a lawyer-friend of my brothers and got it done quickly and efficiently.

Sound advice from my palliative care doctor

A few weeks ago, I decided to start meeting with palliative care as a proactive way to manage my side effects and quality of life. One of the things that my palliative care doctor brought up was if I had an advanced care directive. Proudly, I said I already had one done! We then proceeded to talk about what was on there, and honestly, I couldn’t remember what I even put down! She recommended that I look at it again and figure out if anything has changed. She recommended that advanced care directives be reviewed every year to make sure that what you have written down is in line with your values and your wishes. I was surprised about this, I just thought it was one and done. But it makes total sense.

Reassessing my advanced care directive

So I started to review the workbook that the palliative care clinic gave me and compare it to what my lawyer came up with and noticed that there we a lot of details that were left out of the advanced care directive from my attorney. I also noticed that some of my wishes weren’t my wishes anymore.

I was discussing this with my therapist a few weeks ago and she suggested that we discuss and go over the questionnaire together. An advanced care directive really gets at the heart of life’s most difficult decisions, and she wanted to be there to support me and help guide me as I reconsidered what my thoughts were regarding end of life matters.

So I brought both my legal advanced care directive and my worksheet from the Mayo Clinic and we have been reviewing some of the critical questions in more detail. Really examining how I feel about certain things, pain management, keeping me alive, letting me die, what I want to be done with my body when I’m gone.

With my therapist's help and support

When I had done this with my attorney, to be honest, I didn’t really reflect on these questions. I just put down what I thought was easiest for my family and the least amount of pain it would cause. I really wasn’t honoring what I truly wanted to happen, knowing that my family will be in pain no matter what I decide.

Now I’m redoing my advanced care directive, with my therapist, to really examine, on a truly deep level, how I want my end of life to look. While the topic is heavy, I truly feel that by doing this with my therapist, I can really get down to how I feel and want my experience to be.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on April 1st, 2023, Julie passed away. Julie’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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