“Sooner or later, I’m going to lose my parents,” said Patty Bortz by way of introduction in a discussion of end-of-life issues. “Let me introduce my mother, Libby Bortz, mentor and best friend, who serves on many boards, including hospital ethics and admissions committee for the medical school … (she is well-known in Littleton, her longtime hometown for work on housing, including the Libby Bortz Assisted Living Center, political involvement, service to Arapahoe Community College and much more).
Libby spoke of her daughter: “mother, lawyer, serves on many boards, school activist … She suggested this presentation,” which they have named “The Last Chapter.” They spoke at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center in Denver, a Jewish Family Service program, on Jan. 10 and plan to make further presentations in the metro area
“Friends say they and their parents are not willing to talk (about end-of-life issues),” the octogenarian Libby said. “Why is it important? Are there resources? The most challenging parts of this stage include pain, loss of energy, feeling invisible, divesting things, finding clothes that fit. I will need to move out of my home, funerals, losing the ability to participate. When I was younger, I created organizations. Now, I’m more of a passenger.”
Libby continued: “I’m not afraid of dying, makeup is optional, investment in health insurance is paying off — How lucky I am that saying goodbye will be so hard.”
Patty picked up the train of thought: “At 58, I’m caring for my father, who is confused and struggling. I’ve watched my parents give up skiing. (Libby only last year.) My parents have lost a lot of friends … spend a lot of emotional and physical energy fighting (aging).”
“I thought I could direct my life by having that conversation now, help avoid possible conflict. I have seen families fight about `what mother would have wanted’ and fall apart — about life support, for example. Then depression can be somewhat diminished and we can focus on the living we’ve done,” Libby responded.
Patty acknowledged “a real sense of relief in sharing a plan for the future. We will be better able to handle it. I will be a better support.”
Libby drew laughs when she said, “Put me in a lovely piece of pottery and keep me where the action is …”
“How will I divide with my brother?” Patty bounced back, then asked, “What matters most now? As different from 20 years ago?”
Reply: “What matters most is that I have your help, have my friends, not suffer much …”
“The role I play — I can’t give as much time as you’d like,” Patty observed.
“With my own mother, I was part of the `sandwich generation. Patty, I know you have your own needs, family, I can’t promise `no guilt,” but it’s OK.”
They recommended a book called “The Other Talk,” from AARP, a serious talk with one’s doctor, which Medicare pays for, a look at alternatives to driving (Uber, Lyft).
Writing may be easier than talking, as in “What matters the most to me is … What do you want the most from my home — i.e, a piece of art?”
“It’s never too soon — Boomers should talk to their teens,” Patty said. “Life is like a roll of toilet paper — the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!”
Final words of advice from both: “Get things accessible, including DNR (do not resuscitate) forms if you have them. There are bracelets. Some have it tattooed on their chests … They recommended “Life Alert” as a resource in case you fall and the kids are out of town, and a magnet on the fridge with a plastic bag containing DNR form, list of medications … Learn about palliative care and other medical resources. Use a mediator if the kids disagree.
(We will hope to announce future presentations.)