Dr. Kose On Importance Of Having Advance Directives

(From Dr. Bill Kose, Vice President of Special Projects, Blanchard Valley Health System)

While no one likes to think about facing a serious health crisis, the truth is that one could strike at any time. Healthcare professionals regularly see that making high-stakes decisions in these situations goes more smoothly and is less painful when families have talked about it ahead of time.

We at Blanchard Valley Health System are encouraging community members to complete advance directives, which spell out who would make decisions for them if they could not, and what their wishes might be.

Only a small fraction of hospital patients, locally and nationwide, have completed these forms. One reason for this may be that people generally don’t like talking about death. Some people may worry that an advance directive might result in a healthcare provider being less likely to give them thorough care, though this is untrue.

The decision process may also feel intimidating. But try not to make it too complicated.

Start simply with a conversation. Gather your family around the dinner table. Talk about what you would want. There’s no right or wrong answer. What is most important to you? What does a good quality of life look like to you?

The conversation may feel awkward, even uncomfortable, at first. But should the time come, your family will be glad that you have had the discussion.

These situations are always emotional. But when there is a greater sense of clarity, those emotions may include sadness or shock, but less guilt or confusion – and less second-guessing afterward.

Think of this not only as a way to ensure that your own wishes are respected, but also, in a way, as a gift to your family. Hopefully, they won’t need to refer back to the conversation any time soon. But if they do – and some families must face this every day – they’ll have greater peace of mind knowing you had talked about it.

Assigning someone to be your healthcare power of attorney means that person is in charge of carrying out your wishes. But you yourself can decide what those wishes are, ahead of time. And if, after a health crisis that leaves you mentally incapacitated, you later regain the capacity to speak for yourself, the power to make decisions reverts back to you.

Think about who you would want your power of attorney to be. Be sure to talk it over with that person, and make sure they are comfortable with the role.

When someone is older or seriously ill, these conversations may happen naturally over time. But we encourage younger adults to have them, too. When an emergency strikes a younger person, the emotions may be even more heightened because the crisis is sudden. Having something in writing, just in case, can spare the family added stress.

You may wish to revisit the conversation every several years, if your health or family situation should change. For more information, talk with your primary care provider, or with our Bridge Hospice social workers by calling 419-423-5351.

Once the advance directive forms are completed, they will help you and your loved ones have greater peace of mind.

William Kose, MD, JD Vice President of Special Projects, Blanchard Valley Health System