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 Boomer's Health

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PostSubject: Boomer's Health   Boomer's Health EmptyTue Jan 04, 2011 8:58 pm

Baby boomers are those born between 1946
and 1964, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means they are in
their 40s, 50s or early 60s, and have particular health needs. Here's
how they can improve their well-being.
Barack Levin recently showed his children where the kidneys are in a
human anatomy book, trying to explain why their daddy has been taking so
many pills and feeling so tired.

What he didn't tell the 5- and 6-year-old is that he has been preparing
for his own death since age 26, when he was told he had five years to
live. He's hoping that his kidneys will hold up a while longer, so he
can watch his kids grow up.

November is the month of turkey-carving and football-watching, but it's also a time of difficult, important conversations.

The nonprofit organization Engage With Grace is launching its third
annual "blog rally" on November 24 to promote communication and critical
thinking about end-of-life issues among family members and loved ones.
Last year, about 100 bloggers posted a guide to people asking these
important questions of themselves and their family members.

Given that the whole family is often in one place at Thanksgiving, this
organization says there's no better time to bring up issues about
long-term planning.

What to talk about
At age 26, Barack Levin learned had five years to live. Now, turning 40, he's not afraid of death.
At age 26, Barack Levin learned had five years to live. Now, turning 40, he's not afraid of death.

When a person is unable to voice his or her own wishes about medical
care, the person who is named a "health care proxy" (the term varies by
state) can speak to doctors on that patient's behalf. A living will,
which describes what kind of medical treatment or care a person would
want in that situation, may name who that person is.

Engage With Grace put forth this slide to guide these conversations.
Whom do you want to make your decisions if you can't? Would you want to
die at home or in a hospital? Do you have a living will? What about your
parents?

"Something very torturous is to have lost somebody and to worry after
the fact that you didn't do what they wanted because you didn't know
what they would have wanted," said Alexandra Drane, founder of Engage
With Grace.

It sounds a little morbid or awkward to combine such discussions with
cranberry sauce and football. And Levin is sure he doesn't want to talk
about his condition over turkey.

But others say after the meal, or at some other point during the
weekend, it might be a great time to hash out those important details
among family members.

"The way that Thanksgiving is set up is: You kind of spend a lot of time
thinking about the gifts in your life, and of course you family would
be the biggest gift. Knowing what they would want is a very big bond
around Thanksgiving," says Niamh van Meines of Practitioner Solutions, a
consultancy for hospices.

How to talk about it
Best time for an end of life discussion?

Obviously, don't just blurt it out, says Jeffrey A. Asher, an elder-care
attorney with Eaton & Van Winkle LLP in New York. Start with a
controlled conversation with a real purpose and goal.

You might start with the simple question "If something were to happen to you, what would you want us to do?" says van Meines.

"The parent is very often welcoming of the conversation and respects the
child for bringing the issue up," Asher said. "If it's of concern to
the child, you know it's of concern to Mom and Dad."

Asher recommends that siblings and other close family members discuss
end of life planning together the aging or ill person in question.
Whoever might be involved in his or her care should be part of the
conversation, he said.

They should think about where the family member is going to live if he
or she becomes disabled, and who should make decisions about life
support and other end of life care issues.

If one child agrees with the parent about end-of-life decisions, and the
other has different views, that shouldn't be the focus when appointing a
health care proxy, Asher says.

You should choose whichever child, relative, or friend will do what you
want, regardless of his or her own belief, he said. "The goal is to have
your decision-maker respect your wishes and do what you want according
to your instructions, even if their own beliefs differ."

And sometimes, it's not what you expect. When van Meines brought it up
with her husband, he half-jokingly said he wouldn't appoint her as his
proxy because she, a hospice industry veteran, would "let him go." But
that told her that he would want a full medical intervention, and she
would respect that.

Levin, on the other hand, does not want to be kept on life support, and his wife knows this.

"If it gets to that point, it's going to be very hard for my wife to say
'OK, disconnect.' It's very, very hard. But I also know that really
want my wife and kids to live their lives after I'm gone," he said. "I
don't want them to mourn me for the rest of their lives."

Coping with dying

Levin learned about his kidney disease, called MNGN, through a routine
physical just as he was about to start a new chapter of his life. He had
moved from Israel to the United States for business school, was about
to begin a fast-track management job, and wanted to continue his
relationship with the woman who would become his wife.
At Thanksgiving, the hardest conversation
After he passed the five-year "expiration date" in relative health, he decided to marry his girlfriend and start a family.

Today, he's nearly 40, having beaten the initial odds, but his kidneys
are 20 percent functional. A simple infection could be deadly; a few
weeks ago he had a stomach virus that nearly resulted in total kidney
failure. That's why he can't go to activities at his children's school,
and had to make the difficult choice to not attend his daughter's
birthday party.

He's hopeful that one day he'll be able to get a kidney transplant, but
right now he's not on a waiting list. His book The Diaper Chronicles
tells more about his personal story and how to handle end-of- life
situations.

While at first he felt angry and frustrated and would ask, "Why me?" he does not fear death any more, he said.

"I live my life as if tomorrow is my last day. Because it could be my last day," he said.

If you need an adviser to help you through the legal aspect of the end
of life process, the Alzheimer's Association local chapters and AARP
both have resources. Caringinfo.org, run by the National Hospice and
Palliative Care Organization, has state-specific forms.
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