Consider the following scenarios — which would you rather be in: Scenario 1: “I can’t believe this is happening. My 26-year-old-daughter was in a car accident last week and has a severe head injury. She remains in the hospital, is very confused and can hardly talk. She needs physical help 24 hours a day and may need more surgery. Thank goodness we completed a Power of Attorney for Health Care last year that allows me to make her health care decisions, consent to treatments and make placement decisions for her. When she completed her POA-HC, we talked about what type of care and treatment she would want or would not want if anything serious happened. I know what her wishes are and this is a comfort at this difficult time.” Scenario 2: “Last year, a friend’s son fell out of his tree stand. He also had a brain injury along with severe physical injuries. He had not completed a POA-HC document and my friend had to go to court and be appointed as his guardian in order for her to make his health care decisions. She did not have a conversation with her son and did not know what he would have wanted. With everything going on, I am so thankful we planned ahead.”
I believe all of us can see the advantage of being in the first scenario.
The National Health Decisions Day theme is “It Always Seems too Early, Until It’s Too Late.” A Power of Attorney for Health Care is an important legal document for any adult to have completed. This document names two people that can speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself. Because it is difficult to think about every scenario that could happen, it is a good idea to pick someone who shares your views and values about life and medical decisions.
Decisions that may come up in an emergency or end stage of a chronic disease situation include whether or not you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a machine to breathe for you, a tube to feed you or comfort care. It is important to talk about these issues with loved ones and your doctor before it is too late.
According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, 90 percent of the US agrees that talking with loved ones about end-of-life care is important — 23 percent have done it. Starting that conversation can be difficult. Honoring Choices Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Medical Society is a website that has “Your Conversation Starter Kit” that walks you through the different questions to think and talk about when you fill out your POA-HC. Start the conversation — it is not too early. Consider attending “Honoring Your Wishes: A Community Conversation on Advance Health Care Planning” from 6:30-8 p.m. on April 19 at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms Heritage House Event Center, Sheboygan Falls. The informational session will include video clips, panel discussion and resources to help you start a conversation with your family. The event is free, but registration is appreciated. For more information or to register call 920-451-5513.
Annette Selk, BSN, RN, is a public health nurse and also works for the Aging and Disability Resource Center