Tuesday, May 28, 2013

End of Life Decisions and Care

End of Life

My heart breaks when I think of someone being alone in the hospital to help a patient, and not sure what to do.  It's not always because of the care they are receiving, but also because the loved one may not know what the patients last wishes are.

Bill (names are changed) is with Gary who he cares for as a paid caretaker.  Gary is elderly and sickly.  Bill has been with the family for many years and is watching Gary's decline.  As Gary enters the hospital and now can not speak for himself, there is no direct guidance on what Gary's wishes might be.  Do they fight for him to survive with feeding tubes and forced treatment to keep him alive or do they send him to hospice to die peacefully?

When the patient has family, and money, people come out and want to help make decisions.  This causes even more turmoil.  As Bill watches from the sidelines only able to give guidance to what he believes would be best knowing Gary so well all these years, he shares with me that he will go right back to his own family and make his wishes known.

Having a support system available to you before you need them is crucial and having these conversations though unpleasant are much needed.  The only guarantee we have in life is that we will die.  Why not than have the conversation now about what we might want?  It can be changed later. If you are healthy and young, you may want the medical team to fight for your life, but if you were so severly injured or sick, with no chance of a happy ending and would rather not be kept alive through forced feedings or machines, make these wishes known.

Don't be afraid to talk about it.  It's a gift you will be giving others.  

Here is a Health Care Proxy Form to help start the conversation.   http://www.pulseofny.org/resources/HealthCareProxy.pdf

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