* MVESEtT yAlVeI L L A G E R
The final decision Author has advice for handling end-of-life care. STORY: PAULA F HOWARD // PHOTO: ANTHONY RAO
“Sometimes, family members never heal from the trauma and pain of having to make those decisions for you, especially if they can’t mutually agree on a course of action.” — GAY LYN BIRKHOLZ
aking end-oflife choices is important. If you don’t, someone else will be forced to make decisions for you. That’s the message author Gay Lyn Birkholz, of The Villages, drives home in her book, “Conscious Passage: Documenting Your End-of-Life Care Choices.” “We often give our power away,” she says, “especially when we don’t put it in writing: What kind of care do we want? Often we wait until it’s too late to speak for ourselves. Undocumented decisions become someone else’s problem, usually a family member. Sometimes, making those decisions tears families apart.” Making those decisions also can result in unnecessary grief. “Sometimes, family members never heal from the trauma and pain of having to make those decisions for you, especially if they can’t mutually agree on a course of action,” she says. Gay and her partner, Tom, moved to the Village of Alden Bungalows three years ago from La Pointe, Indiana, where she was born and raised. After receiving her master’s
degree in medical ethics and business ethics from Valparaiso University, she taught for seven years at Purdue University. Previously, she had been in pharmaceutical sales and education. “I spent years caring for my dear aunt, who passed at age 94,” Gay says. “Over time, she became quieter and unable to stand up for herself to her doctors and caregivers. Because we had discussed certain issues about end-of-life, I knew what she wanted when the time came. “It’s a different world today,” she continues. “People need to stand up for themselves more often, become educated on their own health issues, even taking an active part in their own health care.” Her book explains how to document your wishes, decide what you are willing to endure and for how long, and when to tell caregivers you’ve had enough. Writing it down erases doubts and mistakes and,for families, eliminates regrets. “Making these decisions ahead of time actually brings you peace,” Gay says. “It’s such a gift to your loved ones.”
Gay is enjoying life in The Villages and serves on the Ethics Committee at The Villages Regional Hospital. Her book is available on amazon.com, and she will be at an author’s table from 10am-3pm Dec. 8 at the Central Florida Book and Author Fair at Eisenhower Recreation Center, 3560 Buena Vista Blvd., The Villages.
Every month. Everywhere.