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Convincing a Young Adult to Complete a Health Care Proxy

My 23-year old daughter, who is living with me while she job hunts, was bent over her computer when I walked in the door that night. She barely lifted her head to say hello but when I said we needed to talk about advance directives, she bolted upright. Looking stricken and frightened, searching my face for clues, she queried, “Are you okay? Are you sick?” When I assured her I was healthy, she whined, “I don’t want to talk about that; I don’t ever want to think about you dying!” I replied, “My Health Care Proxy is in order but I want to talk about you having one for yourself.” She stared at me in disbelief. She didn’t object to the idea of having advance directives, but she definitely did not want to discuss her own. Ignoring her discomfort I launched into “lecture mode.” I explained how there are now many options along with unforeseeable disasters with end-of-life scenarios, and that it is crucial to address them ahead of time. “It’s fine to assume you won’t need them for a long time but it’s still paramount to have them.” I continued to advocate by adding that colleges were considering advance directives as part of the admission packet, right along with health insurance forms.

I sat down across from her and said, “Think about your brother. What if he had suffered physical damage such that he was in a vegetative state?” This got her attention. My son, her brother, died in an accident a few years ago at the age of twenty. Sarah reached for my hand when I whispered, “It would have been really hard for me as his mother to say no to life support for him. I can’t imagine my choosing to let him die with even the slightest possibility of his life continuing, vegetative or otherwise.” She nodded with understanding, her eyes locked with mine as we both started to cry. We both knew that our strong, energetic, vibrant brother and son would not have wanted to be kept barely alive on life support. My daughter hugged me as we sat together to fill out the forms I had downloaded for her from the Internet. She still may not realize the importance of having a Health Care Proxy for her own benefit but she now understands completing it for my sake.