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A tough conversation: End-of-life decisions

It can be difficult for families to sit down and talk about end-of-life decisions. But one doctor is hoping you'll consider it.

DANVILLE, Pa. — "My mom was a great lady. She was patient and kind. And she did everything for her family. Her family came first."

That's Crystal Shaffer of Beaver Springs talking about her mom, Blanche Plummer, who passed away last November.

About 10 years ago, Crystal, her dad, and her 4 brothers and sisters started noticing small changes in Blanche.

Eventually, they got a difficult diagnosis of dementia.

Crystal says, "Watching her become so helpless, things that she couldn't do, and she knew she couldn't do those things, and that bothered her."

Crystal says about a year ago, the family started making advanced directive plans.

"The Geisinger At Home nurses were coming in, and they talked to us about it. We looked over the information they gave us, and we felt like that's what we should do."

"We use the phrase very frequently 'it always seems too soon, until it's too late."

Dr. Jay Joseph is Medical Director of Palliative Care for Geisinger At Home.

He knows that discussing your wishes with your family can be difficult.

But he calls it a "complete game-changer" when a patient has not only made their wishes clear to their family but has also shared them with their care team, understanding that a will is not the same thing.

"A will is more about what a person prefers, with their estate, for example, after they pass away. A living will, also sometimes referred to as an advanced directive, is a document that indicates preferences for their care while they're still alive," says Dr. Joseph.

 Crystal says her mother was a woman of great faith, and knowing what exactly she wanted, making her end-of-life decisions that much easier on those she left behind. 

"When we made the decision for mom, she wasn't able to make it herself then. But we knew that is what mom would have wanted."

Dr. Joseph points out how much COVID has changed this topic.

Suddenly more families than ever before are being forced to think about end-of-life options.

For more information, visit this website or call 570-214-2497