How many times have you heard live for today because you never know what will happen tomorrow. But if something did happen do your loved ones know what your wishes are for your end of life care? That critical information should be on paper. Your advanced directive is this Avera Medical Minute.
No one really wants to think about the last days of their life and what will happen. But Deb Fischer-Clemens makes it her business to get you to talk about it and then put it in writing. She is the Director of the Avera Center for Public Policy. She says it's critical to have an advanced directive.
Two documents make up an Advanced Directive: a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. A Living Will defines in writing what your wishes would be if you are unable to speak for yourself when you are in a terminal condition. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care names a person to speak on your behalf in any situation where you would be unable to make your wishes known regarding your health care treatment. Fischer-Clemens says it's important to have both because a Living Will only goes into effect if you are terminal not if you are in a car accident and unconscious, for example.
She says, "It's interesting. We did a survey and when asked 74% of individuals did not want to die when life support was going on and didn't want to burden their family with those decisions yet only 39% had done an advanced directive."
Jim Woster learned the hard way how important an advanced directive is. In 1980 his mom, Marie's heart stopped twice. Unconscious and unable to speak, she was airlifted from Chamberlain to Sioux Falls. Neither Woster or his 3 siblings knew what her wishes were because she never wanted to talk about it. He doesn't want to ever put his kids in that same stressful and emotional situation. Experts say that is not the time to be making those kids of decisions.
Woster says, "My wife and I went to an attorney to get our Living Will done and it goes down a list and you write if this happens, do this and so on. If I'm in intensive care for 3 days and I don't want to be on a ventilator it's all laid out that in an event something happens to my wife, there is no doubt what we wanted because it's all written down."
Deb Fischer-Clemens says, " It allows you the ability to define your wishes and treatment . How you feel spiritually and religiously about how you would want your end of life care provided prior to the time when you are unable to speak for yourself."
You don't have to go to an attorney to get the papers although it doesn't hurt. The easiest thing to do is go to a hospital and pick them up there. You will have to have them signed by a notary and by two witnesses. Make sure to give a copy to your family, the person named in your advanced directive, and keep one, that's easy to find, at home.
If you have questions call 877-at-AVERA or visit www.averamckennan.org