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Advance Directives

By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

Trying to predict the future when diagnosed with a debilitating illness leaves caregiver and loved one with many, sometimes confusing, alternatives. Advance directives, such as a living will, can provide families with some comfort. There are online living wills that can be printed, estate lawyers who help with end of life planning through and designating a medical power of attorney.

In either case, advance directives are meant to give the loved one the ability to say what they prefer should they be in a position where they are unable to speak for themselves. Each state regulates their usage differently, and it is important to know how your state utilizes them.

More Definitions

A medical power of attorney allows the loved one to designate a surrogate, or someone to speak on their behalf. It is vital that caregivers and loved ones discuss the variations fully. Simply leaving it as “I know you’ll do what’s best for me” can ultimately take the caregiver down a path where “what’s best” and what the loved one would want oppose one another.

Annie’s mother had been a registered nurse for years. Over time, her mother would often comment that she wouldn’t want her daughter to be the surrogate.“You’ll just tell them to pull the plug.” This was her mother’s communication style, direct and uncensored. “I want them to do everything they can to help me.” As her mother was always lucid about her medical care, paperwork fell to the wayside. However, it seemed clear to the family what was expected: spare no course of action, and keep her attended.

Unfortunately, when her mother had to enter a nursing home, her brother backed away from making any medical decisions. Because she was in the medical field also, she knew the protocol and language. What she didn’t expect were the options and how their traditional definitions would change.

In a nursing home, there would be specific orders for pain and other medication at intervals. There would be interventions that might solve one health crisis but create others.“They would have put her at the end of the nursing floor and allowed her to scream until they could give her the next dose of medication.”Faced with a nursing home and it’s traditional definition of “round the clock care,” Annie had to consider another option.

A Possible Alternative

Hospice may be one alternative when advance directives fail. Compassionate end of life service allows the caregiver to know necessities are being met without extensive measures.


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