April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. A day intended to remind you to take action and document if you want life sustaining treatments during your end of life care. The experts say the best gift you can give your family is an Advanced Directive.
Every day Avera McKennan's Social Services Manager Stacy Reitmeier does her department's version of "rounds" at the hospital. The nurses are required to ask all new patients if they have an advanced directive. If they do a copy goes in their file. If they don't and want to create one, Reitmeier and her team of social workers are sent in to help make that happen.
Reitmeier says, "When you do an advanced directive you have to be alert and competent to make those decisions."
An advanced directive is a fancy term that basically describes what you want done during end of life care. It's documented in a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
Avera Corporate Attorney Matt Michels says, "The power of attorney is different because you are appointing someone to make the decisions for you even though you've stated on paper what exactly you want done. A Living Will applies only when the doctor's have diagnosed you with a terminal condition, but they both have the same effect."
If you don't have a computer to print off the documents, your first stop should be the social services office at the hospital (a volunteer at the front desk will help get you there). They will give you everything you need. You fill it out. Sign it and notarize it. Bring it back to this office and they will take it to the records department and it will be part of your permanent file. A copy should also be given to your main physician or any of your specialty doctors. If you travel a lot it's also a good idea to keep one in the glove compartment.
Reitmeier says, "It takes the pressure and the burden off your family to make that healthcare decision so they know exactly what your decision is and how you want it carried out."
Michels says, "It's really a gift. It's selfless. At the very least talk about it otherwise it becomes what I call a battle at the bedside and that is not a way for this to happen."
Decide what is right for you. Then put it in writing.
Social workers recommend reviewing your advanced directive every two years to make sure your wishes are still the same and to make sure the person you appointed as your power of attorney is still capable of the task and the person best suited for the job.
To find out more or for tools to help you m ake your wishes known go to www.Avera.org