Sunday, April 25, 2010

Health Care Proxy

You want to do the right thing for your family. You made sure you took care of life insurance. You had an attorney draft a Last Will and Testament.

Advance Directives, who wants to think about them?

In my fifteen years of nursing, I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words from a teary-eyed wife or sister, son, husband or brother.

"Gee we never discussed that."

What do you say to someone who is guilt ridden? Someone who never discussed their health care wishes with his or her loved one and now the surrogates don’t know what the right answer is.

The right answer is to make your health care wishes known. Learn from the people you care about. Make your wishes known, now while you have the ability to share these wishes with friends and family.

Identify a health care agent. One person who you trust with your life to make medical decisions for you in the event you are not able to make them for yourself. A person who will; above all do what you want them to do, because it is your wish.

Appoint a second in command. An alternative health care agent. In the event that the health care agent is unable to or unwilling to make medical decisions for you the alternative agent will step in.

Don’t just sign on the dotted line.

You need to let your loved ones know your wishes.

Give your health care agent and your alternative agent copies of your health care proxy form. Give a copy to your doctor. Give a copy to the hospital anytime you go to the hospital. If you go back to the same hospital they may have a copy of it on file BUT assume they don't in an emergency it is best to have a little packet of important papers to grab and go with.

Have a thoughtful discussion about this. Have this discussion with your health care provider and get the facts about measures that you may undergo if you were critically ill. Understand the ramifications of your choices. Sometimes health care providers are not ready to have this conversation with you.

Health care providers are human. We have feelings too. We don't want to lose you as much as you don't want to go. Sometimes we are uncomfortable speaking about these measures as well. If you find your health care provider is uncomfortable with this subject you can ask your health care provider who they would recommend to speak with you about this. Don't let them dismiss the issue.

Everyone over 18 should have a heath care proxy.

My name is Fern Wasserman.
I am a nurse and I assist people in facilitating these conversations.

If you would prefer a self service approach their are many books that may assist you. The one I feel gives a great explanation is by Hank Dunn: Hard Choices for Loving People.

Life is uncertain.

You can give your family and loved ones the greatest gift.

Sharing your wishes and directing your health care in the event you are unable to make decisions is the gift that keeps on giving.

Allow the people you love to go to sleep assured that they honored your wishes.

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