By Hospice of Marion County
It seems as if the whole world is digital and that everything you could ever possibly need or want is on your smartphone. With folks continually texting and checking their apps, face-to-face conversation is fast becoming a lost art.
National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16 is a good reminder to turn off your phone and have the most important conversation of your life — about your wishes for end-of-life care. The hardest part of the conversation is getting up the courage to start it; see how fast someone looks away when you bring up this subject.
To help get the conversation going, a clever new approach to this difficult subject is an old-fashioned card game. Remember playing Go Fish as children? Everyone has played that game, so there isn’t anyone who can’t relate to it. Young and old can sit around the table and play with the soul-searching version called Go Wish. The goal is not to get rid of all your cards, but rather to put your cards on the table, letting your family and friends know what is important to you and how they can support you.
Go Wish is no gimmick. It is the result of much study and funded by a grant to educate elders and their families about advanced planning. It was developed and field-tested to stimulate discussion in a positive way on the values and wishes about end-of-life care. It is an effective tool for those with limited cognition but not too simplistic for those with higher thinking skills. In essence, it works for everyone.
Deal me in
Each of the 36 cards has a short statement that people often cite as being important to them in the last weeks or months of life. In solitaire mode, the player sorts and prioritizes the statements. It is a visual way to communicate your wishes. You also can play in pairs or groups. The point is not to create an “I want” list but to encourage discussion about what is important and why.
The game is never dull. Many people remark after playing the game several times, the way they sort the cards changes, helping them redefine their thinking and how their values might apply in different situations.
How to get started
Whether you play cards, fill out living wills together or have a frank talk around the kitchen table, just do it—for yourself and for your family. It is the best gift you can ever give them. Go Wish cards are available at www.codaalliance.org ($24 for two packs) or play for free online at www.gowish.org.
Other resources are Living Wills and the user-friendly document Five Wishes. A simple two-page Living Will is downloadable for free at www.hospiceofmarion.com/services/resources. Five Wishes booklets are also free at Hospice of Marion County. Pick one up at 3231 SW 34th Avenue, Ocala, or call (352) 873-7400 and one will be mailed to your home. Both documents are fully legal in most states and travelers are advised to carry it with them, especially snowbirds.
These important documents may be challenging to complete. Counselors at Hospice of Marion County’s Monarch Center at Sylvia’s are available to provide guidance. Call (352) 873-7456 to schedule an appointment. The Center is located at 2895 SE 62nd Street in Ocala.