Preparing to make big decisions

Published 7:30 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

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As most of you know, I write from my heart. Yes, I write documented facts and truths about hospice, but I write to share them with you so you will be knowledgeable and enlightened about hospice. Over the years I have shared my own experiences as I want to help quench some of the myths and fears that have so long been associated with the word hospice. Though most of you agree with me when I say, “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen with or without hospice,” some are still hesitant. I want those of you who are hesitant to know that hospice is so much more than just home care. Hospice gives you support, help, resources, equipment, and supplies as well as the needed medicine and nursing visits you need as you journey through this time. Like all healthcare options, hospice is a personal choice. Just like you choose your physician, your cardiologist, your hospital, you choose the hospice you would like to participate in your care. Today, I want to talk about some of those choices.

Vickie Wacaster, Patient and Hospice Advocate with Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice)

In the last month, I have witnessed situations where decisions needed to be made for loved ones or close friends who could no longer speak for themselves. If a sudden health event occurs, and we can no longer make our wishes known, those important decisions become the responsibility of someone else. Sometimes the “next of kin” are tasked with them. Many times, the one these decisions fall to do not know what the person who is ill would have wanted, making those decisions even more difficult. In my case, I felt that some of the decisions made were not what I believe the person would have wanted. Because of this, I wanted to impress upon our readers how very important it is to be prepared.

Like I said before, these decisions I am talking about are not just about hospice or which one to choose. It’s also about long-term health, goals of care, and end of life decisions. Where would you want to have rehab if you need it? Would you want to live in a nursing home if you needed 24-hour caregivers? Have you made your funeral arrangements or decided which funeral home to use? If you required a higher level of acute care, would you want to be transferred to Dothan, Montgomery, or Pensacola.

For everything in life, we prepare and plan. Getting married, having children, going off to college. Therefore, dear readers, if you have yet to make or complete an advance directive, please do so now and make it as specific as possible. Once you’ve completed it, speak to your family about it. Let them know openly and honestly what you want. Let your healthcare providers know: take a copy to your primary care physician or specialist and ask they keep it with your medical records, take a copy to the hospital you primarily use and ask they keep it with your medical records, keep a copy on your person at all times, and keep the original in a safe place that is accessible to the person(s) you have listed.

The five Advance Directives I am most familiar with are:

  • Living wills
  • Health care powers of attorney
  • Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders
  • Physician orders for life-saving treatment
  • Declaration of anatomical gift to take effect when you die.

Remember, Advance directives are legal documents allowing you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care beforehand. They give you a way to tell your wishes to family, friends, and health care professionals and to avoid confusion during a time that confusion is the last thing anyone needs to deal with. Next week I will elaborate to the best of my knowledge the definitions and accessibility of advance directives.

”It is more powerful to speak up than it is to silently resent.” Author Unknown

— Vickie C. Wacaster is a Patient and Hospice Advocate for Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice).