The following is an article from the July 2020 issue of "Get Your Ducks in a Row" Carolina Family Estate Planning's free newsletter. You can read the rest of the issue, as well as back issues of our newsletter online at www.carolinafep.com/library/newsletters/ or subscribe for free at www.carolinafep.com/newsletter.cfm
In late April, my grandfather passed away, just a couple weeks shy of his 96th birthday. Over the years, I've shared various stories of my grandfather with clients, and his Navy photo is displayed in our Veterans-themed conference room (he served on the submarines during WWII including the USS Perch and the USS Flounder). So, as my way of paying tribute to my grandfather, I’ve committed to capturing these stories in the coming months.
Today, I’ll start with the topic of dying well.
According to the Stanford School of Medicine website, 80% of Americans would prefer to die in their own homes surrounded by their loved ones. However, 60% of people die in hospitals, 20% die in nursing homes, and only about 20% die in their homes. (Other news outlets report that this trend is shifting, particularly for deaths from natural causes, towards more in-home deaths aided in part, by a greater availability of in-home hospice services.)
My aunt was my grandfather’s health care agent. She was a phenomenal caregiver and advocate for my grandfather over the past several years. She’s the type to ask a lot of questions. She’ll do her own research and ask the doctors questions about their proposed medical treatments. She’s the type to leave no stone unturned in the quest to find a treatment that might aid recovery.
My grandfather lived with my aunt and uncle as his primary caregivers for about four years. In late April, after leaving the house for about 15 minutes to run an errand, my aunt came home to find my grandfather slouched in his chair, breathing but unresponsive. The paramedics rushed him to the hospital, but in today’s COVID-19 world, my aunt was not allowed to stay with him once he was admitted.
And for this, I’m grateful. I know that might sound odd, but I actually think it made the decision process easier for my aunt and it ensured that my grandfather had a “good” passing. When the doctor called and reported my grandfather was in a coma, had suffered a serious brain bleed, and that he was unlikely to recover (or if he did, he would likely be unable to feed himself or get out of bed), it made the decision to stop treatment easier. It was more important to bring him home so he could be visited by loved ones, than to stay isolated in a hospital bed. If he hadn’t been isolated in the hospital, I think my aunt may have been tempted to wait a couple more days to see if he improved or so the doctors could conduct more tests.
They say that hearing is the last sense to go and that often individuals in comas may still be able to hear what is going on around them. In his final days, my grandfather was discharged from the hospital and returned to the comfort of his own bed with my aunt’s dog laying next to him. Family was able to visit and say their goodbyes, and when he took his final breath, my aunt was there with him and it was a peaceful passing.
For all of the havoc that COVID-19 has thrust upon us, from my perspective, this is a silver lining of the pandemic for which I am grateful--it helped encourage my grandfather’s return to home so he could die with dignity in his home, surrounded by love and warmth.
Rest in peace.
We won't have space to publish all of my grandfather’s stories in the newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe to these stories as a series, please visit this link to subscribe: https://inmemoriam.carolinafep.com