Posted August 29, 2012 by Franciska Kiraly, M.D.
I wanted to share something that came up in my own family a few weekends ago. It's one of those things people don't like to talk about — much less think about — but it's important. My great uncle is in his late 80's, frail and weak with many medical problems. He recently went to the hospital after falling at home.
During his hospital stay, he became confused; and one of his healthcare providers mentioned that he might need to be transferred to the intensive care unit. His wife became concerned because as she said, "He wouldn't want any heroic measures." And then she said the words I've heard so often — "We have a living will."
Let me pause there. When she said they have a living will — honestly, all that translates to in my head is, "We've thought about what we'd want done if we were seriously ill." That's great, and it's definitely a start. But when you're in the hospital, you have people taking care of you who don't know all of your wishes. As a physician in an emergency, I can't sit down to flip through five to six pages of information, hoping to figure out what you'd want done. Living wills are long and complicated, only addressing a limited set of circumstances. I may get a general idea of your desires should a severe problem arise and know that you've at least talked about a living will; but that may be all I can determine.
So how do you convey to your healthcare providers what you'd want done when you can no longer express it? I'll explain a few key pieces of lingo we use, and how they can help you and your loved ones.
In tomorrow's post, we'll talk about the chances of success with CPR, and I'll provide some examples for you to consider.
Franciska Kiraly, M.D.
Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellow
Summa Health System