When we talk about our end of life, across the age spectrum we hear the mantra of "I don't want to be a burden". All socioeconomic backgrounds and from millennial to boomer people don't want to be a drain on their family financially, physically or emotionally as we die.
Excessive financial costs spent at end of life, is not something most people want to spend or burden their families with. When we have realistic understanding of how much time these treatments might be able to buy us, it is usually not something we would choose.
We worry about being a burden with our logistical issues, and that is pretty easy to get around. Get your affairs in order early. Make a will, pre plan your funeral and your vigil plan. If you don't have to finances to pre pay for a funeral at least write it down and let your loved ones know you have a plan and where it can be found. Do this even if you are healthy and young because you have no idea what tomorrow could bring. Creating these things once something has happened or a diagnosis has been made, its much more emotional and more difficult to create. Make an in case of emergency file, include your financial documents, your will, your doctors numbers and your end of life wishes, then let the people who will need this information in case of tragedy know its there.
Now we get on to the more difficult and faceted issues: physical and emotional burdens. As you are on the decline at the end of life you will have more physical needs and less that you can do for yourself. The inclination to outsource to medical professionals is strong, you don't want your family to have to stop their everyday lives to help you. The emotional burden of watching the decline is difficult at best. We have an instinct to shield our families and loved ones from this, thinking that a third party whose job it is to care for dying people is better. This, although admirable is often misguided and can cause more pain.
There is a certain intimacy gained by caring for a person as they are declining and are able to care less for themselves than they once could. The desire to 'not be a burden' can result in a much harder time dealing with the grief after you've died. If your loved ones are asking to take care of you in real ways, let them. The idea that if you die away from where they live that will save them from burden is not accurate. Giving your family the opportunity to be present during your end of life, to help with your care, and to start their grieving process is the ultimate gift. Watching your decline day to day will help them begin to accept what is happening and cope better with their grief. Obviously there is a place for nursing care, around the clock care often can not be done by the family and we need help. Sometimes all we can offer is brush our loved ones hair and wash their hands. Small comforts given at the end can soothe both the dying and the survivors.
In today's society we have removed death from our lives. so that when we suffer a loss its much harder. We have lost the perspective of watching someone decline day to day and the loss feels more abrupt. When we don't see death as part of life we don't know how to cope when a loss happens. In contrast, when we have been present in whatever capacity we are able as our loved one declines and dies it becomes very clear that death is truly a part of our lives.
At the end, you are not a burden, the last months or days you have left can be such a gift to your surviving family and loved ones. Let them care for you in any way they are capable. There is nothing more human than the desire to care for those we love. Let them be present.
My name is Abby, my life has been touched many times by loss and grief. This life has led me to helping others navigate their own grief. I have become a INELDA trained End Of Life Doula and a hospice volunteer. I am not a professional counselor or psychologist and all advice given should be treated as advice from a friend.