Roy Exum: A Little Housekeeping

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I need to veer a bit away from my unpredictable daily routine to clear up – and clean up – a couple of messes that I created. For instance, I asked myself why on earth I was on Facebook, because it has honestly become a nuisance. But when I opted to terminate my account, I had no idea I would immediately “un-friend” about 5,000 people or that some would think I no longer liked them.

My second error was when, in a story about a man who decided to end his medical life support after suffering a horrible tragedy, I vowed that I want my family to know my wishes are “do not resuscitate.” Whoops. That is neither what I want nor what I meant to say.

So let’s clean these up …


We human beings have never been as blessed by social media as we are today and, in the years I have been on Facebook, I have accepted every friend request that I have received. At first that seemed like a friendly idea but when that number grew to around 5,000, it became uncontrollable. Imagine getting an email every time any of them did something.

While I tried to avoid “likes” and “games,”  I inadvertently made some of my “friends” mad when I would not “like” Bill’s Used Cars or Melvin’s Stump Removal. Others would send me messages, demanding I answer immediately, and the truth is there is no way that I have found to answer every email I get throughout the day. That sounds rude and crass but if I spend five minutes each on 100 emails, it would take a total of more minutes than I can allow.

I read an article not long ago about simplifying one’s life and a big part of it was how to eliminate time-absorbing tasks where there is little if any worthy return. Opting out of Facebook has been a big relief and, while I appreciate those who were my “friends,”  I need them to know I didn’t intendto “unfriend” anyone when I pulled the plug.


Modern-day medicine is fabulous but the website Wikipedia reveals that over 1.4 million Americans remain so medically frail today that they survive only by means of a feeding tube. Another 30,000 are kept alive in comatose and permanently vegetative states. Wikipedia also claims studies indicate that 70-95 percent of people feel the same as I do about that – no way.

But to demand “do not resuscitate” is a huge mistake that several readers (and two of my doctors) were quick to point out. “What you are saying is that if you have a heart attack, you are prohibiting medical assistance in any way when, in fact, you could be defibrillated, treated, and live happily like many people already do. That’s not good thinking,” my doctor rationalized.

Instead, I was told my Advance Health Care Directive, or “Living Will,” should read something like this: “If I suffer an incurable, irreversible illness, disease, or condition and my attending physician, in agreement with another physician, determines that my condition is terminal, I direct that life-sustaining measures that would serve only to prolong my dying be withheld or discontinued.”

Better yet, a reader directed me to a third-generation advance health care directive known as “Five Wishes” that was developed by a non-profit group called “Aging With Dignity” and is considered by many as a "living will with a heart and soul."

According to the “Aging With Dignity” website, “Five Wishes” lets your family and doctors know: 1. Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can't make them; 2. The kind of medical treatment you want or don't want; 3.How comfortable you want to be; 4. How you want people to treat you; and, 5. What you want your loved ones to know.

You can go to the “Aging With Dignity” website and actually complete it online for a small fee. Over 18 million people have already done it via the website and there is no one alive who should be without a Living Will.

I’m glad to get those burdens out of the way.

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