By Dee Leahman, Dee Leahman is the director of community education at Hospice & Palliative CareCenter.
I’d like to tell you a true story about the importance of conversations about healthcare choices WELL IN ADVANCE OF CRISIS. When telling this story I ask people to identify the missing link. What do you think it is?
My job at a small community hospital was to help resolve conflicts so I wasn’t surprised when I was paged to the ICU. The nurse who called said the heated exchange going on at the nurses’ station was disrupting the entire ICU. They were arguing about whether a frail, elderly, 84 year old woman should be put back on the ventilator. Unable to breathe well on her own, she had been on the ventilator twice and weaned twice. Soon, breathing became very difficult for her again.
After introducing myself to the group, I learned that the doctor and the adult son were adamant about putting her back on the ventilator immediately, saying, “If we don’t, she won’t make it through the day.” The daughter and the patient’s nurse were pleading with them not to do that. “She has been through so much! She would not want to go back on the ventilator. Can’t we just let her die a peaceful, natural death?”
My first question to them was, “Is the patient alert?” The answer: Yes. You already know what my second question was: “What does SHE want?” The surprised looks on their faces said silently, “That’s a good idea. Why didn’t I think of that?” They followed me to the bedside. I saw a tiny woman with bright, alert eyes, a sweet smile and a weak body. Her voice was all but gone. Her throat was sore. Her answers to my questions came in the form of shaking her head or an inaudible whisper. She had a very important decision to make. Had she heard them arguing? Most likely, yes. Did she understand what they were saying? Did she understand the importance of her decision?
I held her hand and asked several questions, leaning close enough to hear her whispers. We exchanged notes on paper. When I finally knew she understood the choice she was making I asked: “What do YOU want?” She took both of my hands in hers, tapped them lovingly and whispered, “I just want to go to heaven.” And she did. That afternoon her children sat beside her holding her hands and talking softly. She died peacefully hearing their loving voices, not their angry ones.
The missing link was that her loved ones did not know her wishes. Give your loved ones the peace of mind that comes with knowing what decisions to make if you become unable to speak for yourself. Have the conversation NOW, well ahead of the crisis.
At Hospice & Palliative CareCenter, we believe so strongly in helping individuals with the advance care planning process that we are hosting a free one-day conference on May 24 to learn from doctors, ministers, and professionals. ** We even have a national expert on advance care planning as our keynote speaker.
Participants will learn about the importance of advance care planning, what questions to ask, when to ask them, and what to do if your doctor or minister is uncomfortable talking to you about these topics. Avoid a crisis by having a conversation! For more information about this conference, open to anyone in the community, please call Hospice & Palliative CareCenter at 336-768-6157, ext. 1622.
Participants will learn to avoid a bedside crisis by:
• Thinking about the kind of care you want
• Talking to the right people about your choices
• Understanding the choices you’re making
• Documenting your wishes
• Sharing this important conversation with your family and doctor
Save The Date! May 24 – 8:45 am – 3:00 pm. Register today for this FREE, valuable conference.
You, and those you care for, deserve to have the best possible care. Learn how to simplify the journey and make sure that your healthcare wishes are honored. Join us for a free one-day conference, learn from national and local experts, enjoy meals and fellowship, and leave with peace of mind.