Recently, I was having lunch with a friend at Panera. Not far from our table was a group of seniors also having lunch. I happened to overhear part of their conversation and was rather surprised. One of the women said, “Do you have Advance Directives?” The woman to whom she was speaking said, “Yes, my husband took care of those a few years ago.” Another person at the table said, “My son was asking me about that stuff. I think we had those made up when we had our wills done.”
What surprised me about this conversation was the nonchalance of the participants. Their responses were somewhat flippant, which leads me to think that perhaps they don’t truly understand what Advance Directives are or their importance.
April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. The week after has been proclaimed National Healthcare Decisions Week. To help illustrate the importance of these truly valuable documents, I wanted to find some compelling articles which site examples or studies.
One study examined the cases of 2,000 cancer patients who died between 2000 and 2012. During that span, the percentage of patients who received aggressive care, like intubation or resuscitation near life’s end, increased from seven percent to fifty-eight percent. Was that their preference? Unlikely.
The patients’ health surrogates likely erred on the side of aggressive care when they were uncertain, and when the patients couldn’t speak for themselves, said Lauren Nicholas, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Hopkins medical school, who led the research.
To reach this conclusion, Nicholas said her team examined patients’ end-of-life preferences, including cases in which patients documented those preferences but failed to communicate their wishes to caregivers. Very rarely did patients choose the “all care possible” option.
For Nicholas, the takeaway was clear. “Even well-laid plans can go awry if the actual surrogate decision-makers don’t know your advance-care directive exists, and what it says,” she said.
Your Decisions Matter!
Last year, I had the opportunity to have these discussions with my parents. I wanted to review their documentation and see if they understood what the documents meant. Again, here was evidence that they truly did not know what it was that they had executed. As I explained to them the healthcare power of attorney, the living will, the Do Not Resuscitate order, and the organ/tissue donation segments – it was clear that they needed the education. We even went so far as to download the latest version of Ohio’s Advance Directives and read it together. Then we had all new documents printed, signed and copied. We had never actually had those conversations before.
To help increase awareness of the importance and benefits of executing Advance Directives and communicating end-of-life wishes, Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service would like to announce the Schoedinger Talk of a Lifetime Certification program. With this program, people will be able to attend a class to learn about the Talk of a Lifetime cards and how to effectively use them in a business or personal setting.
Then they will be given a short test. Upon passing the test, participants will receive ten decks of cards and a certificate. We are planning for the first class to be during the week of National Healthcare Decisions Week (April 16 – 22). Watch for details in the next Mourning Report newsletter.