You have your advance directive (a legal document, such as a living will that is signed by a competent person to provide guidance for medical and health-care decisions, such as the termination of life support or organ donation, in the event the person becomes incompetent to make such decisions) completed and signed. Your doctor, the hospital, and your health care agent have copies. Everything is in place, right? Maybe. But there are often more decisions that need to be made as one nears the end of life. Will you or your loved one want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a feeding tube, an antibiotic, a surgery? The decisions can seem to be endless as options for healthcare have expanded. It can be particularly difficult deciding for another person, especially someone you love.
Joseph’s 90-year-old mother, Eleanor, was in a coma after having a major stroke. The doctor said damage to Eleanor’s brain was widespread and she needed to be put on a ventilator or she would probably die. Joseph remembered how his mother disapproved when an elderly neighbor was put on a similar machine after a stroke.
He decided to say no, and Eleanor died peacefully a few hours later.
It is helpful when there are past conversations or experiences that can help guide you as to the thoughts and values of the person nearing the end of life. If these are lacking, decisions can be made by gathering as much information as you can regarding your or your loved one’s condition. Why is a test or surgery being suggested? Will the new treatment help or potentially hurt, and what are the chances for each? If I decide to have CPR, what will happen? What will happen if I decide not to have it? These are only a few questions to consider.
Mary’s father, Henry, is 80 years old and has lung cancer, as well as advanced Parkinson’s disease. He is in a nursing facility and doesn’t seem to recognize Mary when she visits. Henry’s doctor suggested that surgery to remove part Henry’s lung might slow down the course of cancer and give Henry more time. But, Mary thought: “What kind of time?
What would that time do for Dad?” Mary decided that putting her dad through surgery and recovery was not in his best interest. After talking with Henry’s doctor, Mary believed that surgery would not improve her father’s life but would cause him pain and discomfort.
If you are making decisions, it is a good idea to bring another person along when you talk to medical staff so your partner can take notes and write down the details of the conversation. It is hard to remember all the information that is in a discussion, especially if it includes technical terms that you are not familiar with.
For more information go to the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health (NIH) website www.nia.nih.gov, email them off their website, or call 1-800222-2225.
When we are admitted to a hospital or care facility, we will be asked if we want to be resuscitated if the heart stops or we stop breathing. Do you know what happens during this resuscitation or your chances of surviving the event?
Find out what CPR involves and discuss the risks, benefits and state laws regarding CPR at the “Is Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) right for me?” event 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, 1 Long Drive, Sheboygan Falls, and 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2, at Generations, an Intergenerational Center, 1500 Douglas Drive, Plymouth.
For more information about these events, go to the Aging and Disability Resource Center website at www.sheboygancounty. com. To register for the event, call (920) 451- 5513.
Annette Selk is a Sheboygan County Public Health Nurse and Health Promotion Specialist at the Sheboygan County Aging & Disability Resource Center.
Stories and general information are taken from the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health (NIH) website under Health Information.