Since life can change at a moment’s notice, two local professionals are encouraging everyone to consider formalizing their advance directives for health care.
Pam Lewis, Cherry Village Benevolence administrator, and Mark Rondeau, Great Bend attorney, want to spread the word in observance of National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16.
Lewis noted that “any one of us can face a situation that changes everything. It could be a sudden illness or an accident. Either could result in long hospital stays and other repercussions.
“It is so important for families to sit down and talk with one another before tragedy strikes,” she continued. “If we don’t have these conversations, there can be devastating results.”
When Lewis needs advice about advance directives on behalf of Cherry Village, which is a long-term-care facility, she often consults Rondeau.
The attorney noted that a living will provides “the opportunity to express yourself in writing when you can’t express yourself verbally. It takes the burden off your family.”
Medical issues that may require feeding tubes, intubation and other measures are “extraordinarily personal,” Rondeau said. “Most people don’t want to have their lives prolonged in these ways but that is an individual decision.
“The problem is, questions often come into play when someone is already hospitalized, perhaps in a coma or otherwise incapacitated either physically or mentally. That is when the family asks ‘what should we do?’”
A living will helps answer the question.
“You will know your loved one’s wishes, which takes the guilt and anxiety off the family,” Rondeau said. “One sibling might want to do everything possible, while another doesn’t think prolonging the inevitable is the right thing to do.
“A living will is a gift to those faced with these difficult decisions,” he added. “You can find the answer in writing.”
Medical powers of attorney (POA) apply when patients are receiving or needing medical care but cannot speak for themselves. “If decisions must be made, the person you choose to act on your behalf will be consulted.
“This is why you designate someone you trust with your medical power of attorney,” Rondeau said. “You can spell out what you want and what you don’t want.”
A POA is valid when it is signed “but if it is sitting in a desk drawer and no one knows about it, it is of no use,” Rondeau commented. “It needs to be accessible.”
He suggested copies be delivered to the person “you have chosen to act for you, your doctors’ offices and the medical facility you use.”
The attorney pointed out that a living will is not the same as a DNR – Do Not Resuscitate order. For example, a DNR applies at the “end stage of a disease and you don’t want to be revived if you go into cardiac arrest. They are typically handled in a hospital, based on current circumstances.”
He also cautioned against downloading forms from the Internet. “It is not expensive to have an attorney handle it and it is worth the peace of mind.”