Make your health care decisions known in advance
by Terrie Kaiser, BSN, RN, CHPN
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. This day is set aside to inspire and educate people about the importance of advance care planning. It is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers to respect those wishes, whatever they may be.
Adults can express these wishes by creating advance directives, which come in two main forms. One is the durable power of attorney; the other is a living will.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization explains that a durable power of attorney for healthcare is a document that names your healthcare proxy. Your proxy is someone you trust to make health decisions for you if you are unable to do so. This also can be called appointment of a healthcare agent or surrogate. This person usually is authorized to deal with all medical situations when you cannot speak for yourself. Thus, he or she can speak for you if you become temporarily incapacitated as well as if you become permanently incapacitated because of illness or injury.Durable power of attorney
A living will documents what kinds of medical treatments you would or would not want at the end of life. It provides a way for you to communicate your wishes to family, friends and healthcare professionals and help avoid confusion. A living will tells how you feel about care intended to sustain life. In it, you can document if you accept or refuse medical care. There are many issues to address in this document, including:
- The use of dialysis and breathing machines
- If you want to be resuscitated if breathing or heartbeat stops
- Tube feeding
- Organ or tissue donation
Who should have an advance directive?
By creating a living will or naming a durable power of attorney, you are making your preferences about medical care known before you’re faced with a serious injury or illness. This will spare your loved ones the stress of making decisions about your care if you become sick. Any person 18 years of age or older can prepare an advance directive.
If you already have one, you aren’t off the hook. You should revisit it if:
- You reach a new decade in age.
- You experience the death of a loved one.
- You divorce or marry.
- You are given a diagnosis of a significant medical condition.
- You suffer a decline in your medical condition or functioning.
How do I create my advance directive?
If you would like more information on advance directives, visit Kansas City’s Center for Practical Bioethics at practicalbioethics.org, the National Healthcare Decisions Day website at nhdd.org or the Lawrence Area Coalition to Honor End of Life Choices (CHEC) website at lawrenceareachec.org. You can also find documents on the LMH website.
LMH is hosting a free program where you may visit with the experts from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, in Conference Room A. There will be time for discussion plus assistance provided for those who wish to complete advance directive documents. This program is sponsored by the LMH Palliative Care Consult Team and Lawrence Area CHEC.
The April Senior Supper presentation at LMH, scheduled for Tuesday, April 21, also will feature a presentation by Dr. Charles Yockey about End of Life Decisions. Space at both programs is limited so you are encouraged to register early by calling LMH ConnectCare at (785) 749-5800 or registering online at lmh.org/events. Click on “Special Events.”
Terrie Kaiser BSN, RN, CHPN, is Director of the Fourth Floor at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and is responsible for the nursing care for the Acute Rehabilitation and Transitional Care units. She is a member of the Palliative Care Consult Team. LMH Is a major sponsor of WellCommons.