While waiting at the airport loading zone recently, the reception from my cell phone was very scratchy and nearly inaudible.  At first I strained to listen but to no avail. I simply could not understand. Then it occurred to me, if I move a little, my reception might improve.  So inching forward just slightly, suddenly and much to my delight, I could then hear things so much more clearly.

That short 30 second experience immediately had me thinking about my conversations with others.  How good is my reception?  Do I move towards better communication or do I stay firmly in my place and miss the chance?  As an Advance Care Planning (ACP) facilitator I’ve witnessed family members who deeply love each other, struggle with hearing what the other has to say.   During advance care planning conversations people are sharing profoundly personal choices about the kind of care they want if they are no longer able to make those decisions themselves.   They are asked to reflect upon and share what living well looks like for them.  What would happen on that day? What might they do and who might they talk to?  From that reflective process, they are asked to consider, “If you no longer know who you are, where you are, or who you are with, who would speak for you?  What kind of medical treatment would you want?”

When a person shares at this intimate level they are asking us to honor their choices for living well.  What seems to help tremendously is to inch towards their voiced choices, to hear better what they are saying, remaining open to their perspective.  This moving towards allows open and honest communication, better reception and compassionate understanding that leads to a shared sense of purpose.

More than once I’ve heard a family member say “I’m so glad you told me what is right for you.  I would have never known your choices and would have been afraid to decide for you.”  They go on to share what they once thought might be a burden, having to make healthcare decisions for their loved one, is not.  They realize instead, they are being asked to follow through with the choices already made by the person they love.   And because of the open conversation about healthcare preferences, they now actually know and understand the decisions of that person, and what living well looks like for them. They heard it themselves, in the words of the person they love.  It’s a freeing and empowering experience for both.  I’ve been privileged to witness the sense of comfort it provides families later when they are asked to make healthcare decisions for a loved one who no longer can do so.

Friends of Hospice offers free, confidential advance care planning facilitations with Honoring Choices® certified facilitators in the community. To schedule an appointment please call (509) 332-4414 or email contact@friendsofhospice.net