Friday, March 22, 2013

Caregiver Series IV: Stating your wishes in a medical emergency.

From the “news you can use” department…

The story last month about the death of an elderly California woman when an aide at her assisted living facility refused to give her CPR caught national attention.  After Lorraine Bayless collapsed, the aide called for an ambulance, but refused to further help Mrs. Bayless.   The 911 operator was outraged and the media questioned “what has our society become?” The deceased’s family has decided not to sue because inaction was in line with the elderly woman’s wishes.  This case should encourage all of us to ask ourselves questions.

What are your wishes for life saving care?  Do you know the wishes of your loved ones?  Does your state have a Good Samaritan law? What are the policies of any care givers you hire, or at the nursing facility where your loved ones may live? Are these consistent with your/your loved one’s wishes? Do you have a living will, and most importantly, do others know about it?

When trying to sort out all of this out, some commonly used terms worth knowing are advance directive, living will and durable power of attorney, and do not resuscitate order.

What is an advance directive?  This document tells your doctor what kind of care you would like should you be unable to make those decisions for yourself. Take note, the laws in Michigan differ from Ohio, or other states on advanced directives.

A living will is one kind of advanced directive.   A living will is a legal document that spells out what medical treatments you wish in a potentially life-ending situation.

A durable power of attorney document is also a kind of advanced directive.  The purpose of a durable power of attorney is to state another person you have selected to make decisions on your behalf when you no longer are able.

A do not resuscitate order also an advanced directive, prompts your doctor to put your directive in your medical chart detailing exact wishes.

Good Samaritan laws are in place to shield doctors, or others who help a person in an impromptu emergency situation from law suits.  Michigan has a Good Samaritan laws, which vary from most other state’s laws.

It turns out the Lorraine Bayless had apparently wished for no emergency life saving to be done in an emergency. But apparently and ironically her wishes were not known.   What seems to have surprised the emergency response 911 operator was the unwillingness of the staff at the assisted living facility to either help, or communicate why the aide wasn’t helping. 

Make sure that all of your nursing and home health resources are in line with your expectations. Some final questions to ask yourself; what level of care can you expect from a nursing facility? Is staff trained and permitted to perform emergency care? What emergency care do you want? Is the facility aware of your wishes?

All Trustiva Health caregivers are CPR trained with current certification and are trained to administer CPR (after calling 911) unless otherwise legally directed.
Here are some additional resources to help you in making medical planning decisions:

AARP Advance Directive Information
U.S. Living Wills Registry

If you have additional resources to share about medical planning we would love to hear from you. 

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