Just like no one escapes taxes, death is also certain.
Yet most people have little discussion concerning their end-of-life care.
"Those decisions should be made up front," says Donna Sharp, market director of case management and clinical documentation for Parkridge Health System. "Those wishes should all be documented."
People should let their loved ones know their wishes if their health is compromised. Do they want to prolong life for as long as possible, or is there a point where they want no ventilators or feeding tubes?
To start the discussion, the Tennessee Hospital Association is calling today, April 16, "Decision Day." It's the day before tax day, which is delayed until April 17 this year.
The association's goal is to get people to talk about their end-of-life care.
This isn't the first time the hospital association has pushed the effort, says Dr. Greg Phelps, medical director for Hospice of Chattanooga.
He recalls one year when the hospital association ran a campaign encouraging people to "Talk Turkey" about end-of-life decisions during Thanksgiving dinner.
It takes only 10 minutes to write a living will that will document a person's final wishes. No attorney is necessary but most people don't do it. The result, says Phelps, is that he's witnessed fights in the emergency room about end-of-life decisions for grandma.
"We plan for birthdays. We plan for weddings, but we don't plan for how we're going to spend the later part of our life," he says.
A living will documents if a person wants to be kept on life support if he becomes terminally ill and will die shortly without life support or fall into a vegetative state.
The conversation isn't just for the elderly or sick. It's for everyone. Young couples can have a car accident and leave their loved ones trying to make decisions for them while they're full of emotion, says Phelps.
The Tennessee Hospital Association encourages people to have the conversation this month, document their wishes and share them with other family members so there's no confusion.
Without emotion and anxiety, people can have a rational discussion about end-of-life care, says Phelps.
"Basically they (the Tennessee Hospital Association) made a day to kind of create the inclination for people to talk about it, and of course they picked tax day because death and taxes are two inevitable things."
Contact Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.
1. What is a Living Will/Advance Care Plan?
A “Living Will” is the term used in Tennessee’s previous law. In 2004, Tennessee law changed the name of the form to “Advance Care Plan.”
An Advance Care Plan is a document that tells your doctor how you want to be treated if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. You can use a Living Will/Advance Care Plan to tell your doctor you want to avoid life-prolonging interventions such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, kidney dialysis or breathing machines. You can use this form to tell your doctor you just want to be pain-free and comfortable at the end of life. You also may add other special instructions or limitations in your form.
2. What is a Medical Power of Attorney?
A Medical Power of Attorney is a term used in the state’s law before 2004. In the new law, this is referred to as an Appointment of Health Care Agent. An Appointment of Health Care Agent is another type of advance directive that allows you to name a person to make health-care decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.
3. How is the Appointment of Health Care Agent different from the Advance Care Plan?
An Advance Care Plan provides directions to your doctor on how you want to be treated if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious and unable to make decisions for yourself. An Advance Care Plan tells your doctor what you do not want unless you write in other specific instructions. It is a written record of decisions that you have made yourself.
On the other hand, the Appointment of Health Care Agent allows you to choose someone else to make health-care decisions for you if you are too sick to make them for yourself. This person is called your Health Care Agent. Your agent can make any health-care decision that you could make if you were able. A Health Care Agent allows you to give specific instructions to your representative about the type of care you would want to receive.
The Appointment of Health Care Agent allows your decision maker to respond to medical situations that you might not have anticipated and to make decisions for you with knowledge of your values and wishes.
4. I am a young person in good health. Do I really need to create a formal Advance Directive?
Advance Directives are for all adults, including mature minors and emancipated minors. We never know when an accident or serious illness will leave someone incapable of making his or her own health-care decisions.
5. What if I already have a Living Will? Do I need to create an Advance Care Plan?
The new form developed for use has more detailed instructions and may best express your desires so one may want to create a new Advance Directive. If a new form is not created, the old form will be honored. The Advance Care Plan includes both the Appointment of Health Care Agent and Advance Directives.
Source: Tennessee End of Life Partnership