I checked into a large hospital recently for major knee surgery. The Admissions clerk asked if I had an Advance Directive. Doesn’t everyone? (Sadly, the answer is ‘no’.). I gave her the pages to scan into my electronic record and felt confident that if something dramatic should happen, I had all my bases covered. Did I?
Health Care Agent. Check. Alternative Health Care Agent. Check. I even have additional resources for my husband, aka my Health Care Agent. CPR decision. Check. What I want life to look like if I have precious little of it left. Check. Notarized/witnessed. Check.
We filled out our Advance Directives a few years ago and as we learn more about end of life, we make changes along the way. It can be changed; it is not a one-and-done deal, although it can be. Filling in the blanks at the dining room table when there was not a crisis on the horizon made the process so much easier.
I reviewed my choices before I went into the hospital to make sure everything was in place and I had a little chill. It seemed ‘real’ now; it wasn’t dining room table talk anymore. If I had to complete an Advance Directive with surgery looming in the next 24 hours, I might have answered the questions differently. I would have been in panic mode and not had time to thoughtfully consider what I wanted.
Advance Directive. The key word to me is ADVANCE. Do it in advance. Do it before a crisis. Do it before your family has to mull over the decisions and hope they did right by you.
My husband will be my voice. If he gets to a place where he needs backup, I have that built in for him. He was a high school athlete; he understands the value of teamwork. Each voice on my team can assist, confident they will honor my choices and will not lose sleep in the future, wondering if they did the right thing. That peace is the gift I will leave behind.
Working and volunteering in hospice and employed by clinics and hospitals for most of my career, I have heard too many horror stories of accidents, strokes, heart attacks….on and on, and too often there isn’t an Advance Directive. Young adults are not immune to life-altering events; if you consider yourself an adult, you are not too young for an Advance Directive. Do the adult thing and get your plans in order. Do your parents, family, and friends a favor so they know what you want.
Who will be your voice? Remember, it is never too late until it is.