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Advance Directives

Monday May 18, 2015

Advance Directives

The greatest gift my mother ever gave me came the week after my daddy died. Daddy had undiagnosed stomach cancer that had been diagnosed as an ulcer and treated accordingly. The blood work showed something else was terribly wrong: the malignancy had metastasized throughout his body. He died 4 days after being hospitalized. We had to make many decisions quickly about life support, feeding tubes and the like. Though we thought we knew what his desires would be, we were required to make the choices.

The week after his death, Mother made an appointment with her attorney and had all the powers of attorney and advance directives completed. She told me I would never have to make those hard choices, ever again. Little did we know that in just a few years, she would experience profound memory loss and would not be able to make those choices known. If she would not have completed those advance directives, I would have had nothing in writing – just words from a past conversation where she told me she did not want to have any ‘heroic’ efforts made if she could not live a normal life.

If your loved one has advance directives completed, I know you are grateful. But if not, what can you, as a family, do? While you can’t complete a living will FOR someone, as a family, you can have a calm discussion about it and come to a joint decision BEFORE a decision is needed. Decisions made in the midst of a crisis are difficult, and often it is impossible to get all parties together when a split second decision is needed. Two big decisions that families often have to make are:

Would you have a feeding tube inserted if your loved one could no longer swallow?
Would you have CPR begun on your loved one in the event of heart attack/coronary arrest?

This Thursday, May 21 from 4:00 to 5:00 pm, we will host Wine and Unwind at Page Robbins. This month’s topic is “Advance Directives: What do I need to know?” with guest speakers Emily Stuart, LBSW and Julie Beaty, LBSW from Crossroads Hospice. Please call us at 901-854-1200 to RSVP. All of our support groups and educational sessions are free and open to the public.

If you’re looking for more information about advance directives, we hope you’ll join us for Wine and Unwind. If you aren’t able to join, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack is available to talk with you, answer questions, and point you to a variety of resources (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org).

Written by Herbie Krisle, Executive Director