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Making choices

A photo of Heidi’s daughter and grandpa before her grandpa passed away earlier this year. Photo by Heidi Hagen

A photo of Heidi’s daughter and grandpa before her grandpa passed away earlier this year. Photo by Heidi Hagen

The difficult decision.. how we want to die?

Life is about making choices, choices that our parents made way before we were born. Today’s society would appear that planning to have a child is becoming more of an art, an event that is illustrative of a story before conception to the actual Birth Day. Identifying couples pursuit to becoming parents and what that life looks like to the actual day a child is born. Options for care, practitioners, testing, announcements, reveal parties, birthing, and delivery, parental leave, and the list goes on. Notable is that our society in general does more planning for birth compared to death. The more important yet difficult choice is…how do we want to die?

Allow me to share a story about my Grandfather, a man of many lives, literally. I never thought Grandpa would die; he would live forever, right? I recall many times, Mom calling, “You better come to the hospital, Grandpa isn’t doing well, and he might not make it today.” Only to make the visit, say “I love you” and “See you next time” to learn the next day Grandpa was home, back to his normal self, living life!

This happened about 10 times in the last 12 years of his life. Never once do I recall our family having the conversation with my Grandpa about his life, his goals and wishes, let alone what really matters…when he is sick, really sick, and not able to make his own wishes known, what does he want for his life, or for that matter, his end of life? This past September was another one of those times, I received the call from Mom, “Grandpa is in the hospital, you better stop by, doctors are not optimistic” and so it goes, I made a visit. This time, I was going to visit with my Grandpa on the terms that I wanted to hear from him, I was going to ask him the difficult question, “Where do you want to die Grandpa?”

It’s not an easy question to ask, but it’s an important question that everyone should be asked and discuss with loved-ones time and again before a crisis arises, before a serious illness takes over, before loved-ones are not able to make their own wishes known to family. This was a question that was not asked of my Grandpa, nor was it discussed with the family. If ever the subject was brought up, the response was “Grandpa wants what his doctors want; as long as Grandpa can make his own decisions he wants everything done to keep him alive.”

What does that mean, to “have everything done?” What about the risks? What about Grandpa’s goals and wishes for living life? What does that look like? How do we carry out those wishes? What if this and what if that? Do the doctors know best? Does Grandpa know best? Who knows best? At the age of 88, my Grandpa, with a heart condition and cancer, what would be his best life? What does Grandpa know about his illnesses and current condition? So many questions and really no answers or plans for a future life of living his best life with the life he had left to live.

Heidi’s grandpa pictured with his grandchildren. Contributed photo

Heidi’s grandpa pictured with his grandchildren. Contributed photo

Grandpa passed away February 7, at home, at the lake, comfortable, at peace and with loved-ones by his side. Was this the best option for Grandpa’s end of life journey? Was it what he wanted? Was it what he expected? He shared that day in the hospital that he wanted to go home, to the lake where he loved to be, he wanted to be comfortable and he wanted to be around his family. It was that time in his life, at the age of 88, that an Advance Care Directive was completed, a guide to Grandpa’s wishes for living his best life at the end of life.

Do you have these same questions, unsure of how to go about planning for your best life at end of life? Concerned about the what, where, when, how and why of having end of life plans.

For me, having worked at Heartland Hospice for the past three years I have had the privilege of educating our community on the importance of planning for end of life.

On April 16, 2016, join us, in partnership with National Healthcare Decisions Day to make choices. All Americans are encouraged to ensure that their future healthcare choices are known and protected. The process does not take long and it is free. This is something I have done for myself and hope you will, too.

An advance directive is a legal document that tells healthcare providers who it is that you wish to make medical decisions for you and what treatment you would want or not want, if you are ever not able to tell others what you want for yourself. I encourage individuals to complete an advance directive while they are able before a health crisis. National Healthcare Decisions Day exists to remind all people, regardless of age or current health of the importance of making these decisions. Please be sure to complete your advance directive today and also encourage all your loved ones to do the same.

I am happy to answer questions you have and for more information, please visit: or contact Heartland Hospice at

Heartland has four area locations

Heartland Hospice provides care wherever you call home: in your house, a skilled nursing center, an assisted living facility or independent living facility.

Heartland’s caregivers help create individualized care plans, set personal goals, and manage pain and symptoms. Every patient is different. With different challenges, different needs, different family and friends. So the care Heartland Hospice gives each patient is different.

Heartland has the following offices in Minnesota:

Heartland Hospice- Sauk Rapids 1257 2nd St. North, 888-650-1136

Heartland Hospice-Brainerd 609 Oak St., 888-650-1136

Heartland Hospice-Roseville 2685 Long Lake Rd., S #105, 888-633-6522

Heartland Hospice-Rochester 821 3rd Ave. SE, Suite 15, 877-790-1170

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