By B.C. Manion
Just turn on the news any day and you’re likely to hear about some disaster somewhere that has killed and maimed people.
People who don’t die in these tragic events often are rendered unable to communicate how they want to approach death. Serious illness can have the same result.
There is a document that people can fill out ahead of time to provide advance directives on the kind of care they’d like to receive.
Aging with Dignity’s Five Wishes allows individuals to express how they wish to be treated if they become seriously ill.
The 12-page booklet addresses personal, family and spiritual matters, in addition to medical and legal concerns. The document is legal in 42 states, including Florida.
The easy-to-understand document allows you to indicate:
—The person you want to make care decisions for you when you can’t
—The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want
—How comfortable you want to be
—How you want people to treat you
—What you want to let people know
Gulfside Regional Hospice and The Hook Law Group, which specializes in elder care, had seminars at various locations on April 16, in conjunction with National Healthcare Decisions Day, to provide information about advance healthcare planning.
Alicia Scott conducted the seminar at Gulfside’s Lutz Thrift Shoppe, 1930 US 41.
“Working in this business, I’ve seen many patients who have not been able to speak for themselves,” said Scott, a community education representative for Gulfside. When patients can’t express their wishes, family members often are faced with gut-wrenching decisions.
There can also be family disputes over what to do if the person who is dying has not made his or her wishes clear.
One prominent example of this was the Terri Schiavo case involving a woman who was in a vegetative state for 15 years.
In that case, the parents battled the husband on whether the woman should be kept alive with a feeding tube.
Ultimately, a court ruled that the husband could remove the feeding tube and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. Schiavo died March 31, 2005.
“If she would have had something like this (Five Wishes) written out, there would not have been that long, drawn-out case,” Scott said.
The Five Wishes document, Scott said, can help individuals talk with loved ones about their desires involving end-of-life care and how they want to be remembered.
The document prompts individuals to decide who they want to be their health care surrogate.
That person is someone who can represent “what you do or do not want, if you can’t speak for yourself,” Scott said. It is essential to be sure that the surrogate will carry out your wishes, she said.
There are legal requirements about who can be selected as a health care surrogate, and the Five Wishes document spells those out.
The document also allows individuals to express how they want to be treated when they are in pain, whether they want life support treatment when close to death and if there is any circumstance when they would not want life support.
A do not resuscitate (DNR) order from a doctor is not the same thing as the Five Wishes document, she said. Those not wishing to be resuscitated should have a conversation with their doctor about that, she suggested.
It’s also important to know that individuals can change their Five Wishes whenever they desire, but they must be sure to destroy any old copies of the document.
The document also covers personal and spiritual issues, such as whether you want someone to pray by your bedside and what type of memorial service, if any, you would like.
If you are interested in obtaining a free copy of Aging with Dignity’s Five Wishes, America’s most popular living will with more than 15 million copies in national circulation, call (800) 561-4883 to request one.
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