Dear Abby: My mom refuses to discuss wishes for end-of-life care

Though she benefited from her husband’s planning for his final days, she won’t make a plan of her own and says anyone who asks about it is ‘morbid.’

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DEAR ABBY: My mom turns 85 this year. When my father died of congestive heart failure 10 years ago, our family had a clear understanding of Dad’s wishes about the end-of-life care he wanted. We knew he didn’t want “heroic measures,” like a feeding tube or to be on a ventilator. Since Dad had been sick for a few years and he was open to these discussions, Mom felt confident making choices for his care when he could no longer communicate his wishes.

With Mom, it is a completely different story. She refuses to have conversations about this with my siblings and me, and accuses us of being “morbid.” Although she has a will, she has made no decisions about a proxy or for her care. Do you have any suggestions for how we can help Mom feel more comfortable having these conversations and documenting her wishes? — LOVING, NOT MORBID, DAUGHTER

DEAR DAUGHTER: Offer your mother resources that normalize discussions about end-of-life wishes and care. Helping to ensure that she receives the care she wants is not morbid. It is a gift to her and your family. If something happens to a loved one and they can no longer communicate for themselves, you should not have to guess what their wishes would be in a crisis.

Start with the perfect gift for Mom: “Finish Strong: Putting Your Priorities First at Life’s End,” a book written by Barbara Coombs Lee, the president emerita and senior adviser of Compassion & Choices. Compassion & Choices is an organization I have mentioned before in my column and to which I contribute. It offers a multitude of resources, including “My End-of-Life Decisions: An Advance Planning Guide and Toolkit.” It would be a helpful starting point for a discussion with your mother. For more information, visit compassionandchoices.org.

DEAR ABBY: I am a divorced dad with two adult daughters and a 14-year-old daughter. My older daughters are learning to be responsible for themselves, and I’m proud of them. The question I need help with involves my youngest. She doesn’t want to go to school. She stays awake on the phone. I have taken two of them from her, yet her mom keeps giving her phones. I have unplugged the Wi-Fi. I’ve tried talking to my ex about this to no avail.

I’m not perfect. I have said things I regret, but I have always loved my daughters. I have explained that my teen is pushing me away, but my ex doesn’t care. My heart hurts. Must I just let go? — HEART-HURTING DAD

DEAR DAD: Your ex-wife appears to be irresponsible in the care of your daughter. She is also attempting to alienate the girl from you. It is very important to find out why your 14-year-old doesn’t want to go to school. Is she being bullied? Has she fallen so far behind that she’s afraid she can’t catch up? Did the COVID lockdown impair her social skills as it has many other students?

Once you know what you are dealing with, you may be able to do more than lecture her about her truancy, and that is what I am recommending. She may need counseling.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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