The Words. The WORDS no one ever wants or expects to hear. “Dad’s not breathing.” So what do you do? Who do you call? Where do you turn?
“I just came by to check on Dad. He’s in bed. He’s not breathing. Should I call 911?”
And that answer is Yes, unless your dad and your family have made some clear decisions beforehand.
To know what to do, first and foremost, you have to know…what does Dad want?
Depending on Dad’s state of health, chronological age, mental acuity, spiritual beliefs, family commitments, etc., Dad may want you to call 911 for a full resuscitation. Or if Dad is X-many years old and has been chronically ill for ten years with six different diseases, he may want to be left alone for his natural passing to occur. Or maybe he wants treatment as long as it’s not permanent or invasive. Maybe he needs and wants an NG tube for some temporary tube feedings, but does not want to be kept alive with a surgically installed feeding tube. The point is that none of these questions can be answered if you as a family have never discussed it with Dad.
To avoid immeasurable pain and anguish during the final years of a loved ones’ life, your family simply MUST communicate with each other WELL BEFORE choices have to be made. ASK the hard questions. START the hard conversations. BRING it up when people are physically healthy and mentally functional. MENTION a friend who’s lost a loved one and TELL how their wishes were kept. OFFER to help get a Living Will to get the discussion going.
Give your Dad and your family an immeasurable gift of peaceful knowledge. When you one day have to hear the words “Dad’s not breathing,” you will know whether to answer, “I’m calling 911” or “Call the family; it’s time for everyone to come on over and be with Dad.”