Don’t let the biggest battle be over who handles your end of life care
It may never strike someone that a veteran’s greatest battle is not war itself but subsequent battles he must fight in order to return to everyday life. Dennis Henley served in the U.S. military for 26 years before retiring and being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Prior to retiring, Dennis had a living will but he did not have an advanced medical directive to ensure he received medical treatment the way he felt comfortable. In a blog post for the Alzheimer’s Association, Dennis Henley discussed the steps he’s taken in what he calls his “greatest battle”:
“I was diagnosed in 2008 with early-stage Alzheimer’s. When I received the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it was almost a relief. It provided an explanation for what was going on. It also provided a path forward. There were plans I needed to put in place for the future.
I made my living will before my first trip to Iraq. But after the diagnosis, my wife Mary and I updated our advance directives, power of attorneys and will.
Everything has been documented, so there is no dispute and no questions for my children when this disease progresses. We dotted all the “I’s” and crossed all the “T’s” to make sure everything is in place. It’s an important thing for anyone who has been diagnosed to do.”
Dennis identifies it perfectly – preparing signing an advanced medical directive is not about feeling guilt over the inevitable. Deciding to sign an advanced medical directive is about fostering the conversation with family; with friends and with the network of support we all have in our lives. Whether a military serviceman about to be deployed overseas, a patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or none of the above, the conversation that grows from these life situations allows for a mutual understanding amongst everyone in your life who care how you’re cared for.
Photo: From Henley's blog post at the Alzheimer's association. L-R: Henley; Gen. Franks; Henley's son.