END of LIFE Care

Excerpt from the Hammond Law Group newsletter

Barbara Bush, who died on April 17, 2018, at the age of 92, led a rich, fascinating life.  She was known for her compassion and wit. Historian Jon Meacham said that during her final days in the hospital, Bush jokingly asked a nurse if she wanted to know “why George W. turned out the way he had.” Her reply: “I smoked and drank while I was pregnant.”

The story most often used to illustrate her kindheartedness is when she encouraged her husband to visit an AIDS clinic during his 1988 campaign for the presidency—at a time when there were many misconceptions about the disease. The following year as First Lady, she spent time at Grandma’s House, one of the first homes created to care for infants infected with HIV. Mrs. Bush’s efforts did a great deal to change public perception and remove some of the stigma and misunderstanding about HIV/AIDS.

Planning ahead in the hardest times

Nobody likes thinking about their death, but Mrs. Bush was thoughtful about her own end-of-life desires. Before she died, her family released a statement that she had made her wishes clear, and she would spend her final days at home with her family utilizing “comfort care,” which is more commonly known as palliative care.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with a serious illness. It focuses on delivering relief from the symptoms. Instead of seeking continued medical treatment for her congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Mrs. Bush sought comfort in her final days.

According to reports, her decision did not come as a surprise to her family. After all, Mrs. Bush assisted in founding the hospice program at the Washington Home for chronically ill patients. Still, her decision has put both palliative care and the need for end-of-life planning in the national spotlight.

Open the lines of communication with your family

It isn’t easy to talk with your family about end-of-life matters, but it is so important. Leaving this topic undiscussed could put your family in the dark and force them into a difficult, uncomfortable situation. Worse, if your family is unaware of your intentions or unclear on who should handle certain medical decisions, arguments can erupt and even lead to unfortunate legal battles.

Don’t put your family in a difficult position. We admire Barbara Bush’s approach to the end-of-life matters that so many of us are afraid or uncomfortable to broach. If we can help, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Moran & Long.