Advance directives were an important gift for me—and for my dad

By Cathy Hedgepeth, Intermountain Homecare marketing and communications specialist 

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Cathy with her dad and her great niece.

As I watched my dad going in and out of consciousness, I pondered the responsibility on my shoulders. I was his executor, power of attorney designee, and his medical decisions appointee. I’d taken care of my dad since my mother died 12 years ago. Mom was alert and speaking up until she passed. There was no doubt about what she wanted, who she wanted to see, and where her pain level was. Dad’s experience was very different.

As he was declining because of congestive heart failure, we’d been hit with another diagnosis of dementia. On his deathbed, dad couldn’t speak any longer and didn’t know who we (his family) were—although I know our presence was a comfort he recognized and often kept him calm.

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Cathy and her dad

I’ve worked for Intermountain Homecare & Hospice for 15 years. Several times during my time at Intermountain there would be a promotion encouraging people to complete their advance directive. Some felt it was morbid. I now consider it a blessing because I knew exactly what my dad wanted.

During one of those promotions, I felt an urgency to not only complete an advance directive for myself but to work with dad on his. Four years before his death, we sat together and discussed what each question meant to us and what was our individual hope and decision would be if different scenarios played out in the future.

Sitting there holding dad’s hand as he was leaving this life, I said a verbal thank you to Intermountain for continually reminding me of the importance of advance directives and advanced care planning. Throughout my dad’s decline on hospice, my siblings and I didn’t always see eye to eye. At times there was tension between us siblings with what was the right thing to do. What a game changer his advance directive was in helping us come together and base our decisions on what dad wanted and what he had clearly outlined.

While I struggled with the impending loss of my dad, I was comforted and felt burden-free because the decisions were already made. He gave that gift to me and to my siblings. As my dad took his last breath, I had no regrets because I knew his wishes were carried out.

Now dad has been gone four years. I see so many being faced with crushing choices as they navigate life and death emergencies and experiences. My one request for those reading this is to please pay it forward. Complete an advance directive and file it with your physician, hospital, and loved ones. Do it for your family. Do it because you love them.

Learn how to complete your advance directive.

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