Every day, I encounter patients with terminal illnesses. I walk with families as they surround their loved one as he takes his last breath. I regularly receive phone calls, asking if I would help them complete the Five Wishes or some other advance directive.
I am extremely familiar with living wills and issues of Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. I understand the rules, I work to normalize these documents (that often instill some fear into those completing the forms), and I encourage community members to complete their own advance directives.
Then I learned I needed surgery myself—I have a bum hip that gets to be replaced. I work at the hospital, I know the staff and I was ready to act as a “mystery shopper” as a patient at Memorial.
I attended my pre-operative appointment with the nurse. I gave what felt like fourteen gallons of blood, I was swabbed from here to eternity for infections, I was given twenty-seven pages of dos and don’ts for before and after the surgery, and I was nearly ready.
Then I was handed my own copy of The Five Wishes to complete.
All of a sudden, my hands got sweaty.
The nurse that gave me the advance directive form stated, “We give this to everyone. We want to know the sort of care you want—or don’t want—to receive in the event you are unable to make your own decisions and decisions need to be made.”
Once I dried off my palms and got a hold of myself, I recognized what a great idea it is to give this document to every patient going in for surgery. Most patients will not need to have this document come into play. But for the very, very few that will need it, it is one of the best gifts a patient can give to loved ones. Typically being on the other side of the situation, I walk with families as they fear the decisions they have to make because they don’t know what the patient would want. We are beginning to offer an advance directive, not only to our surgery patients, but to all our patients that are admitted to Memorial Family of Services. Making these decisions when not in a time of crisis can make all the difference in the world.
These days, I encourage anyone over the age of 18 to complete an advance directive. I use The Five Wishes, because it’s a simple document, it doesn’t require the signature of a notary, and it is effective in 42 states. If you would like a copy, you can receive one by going online to www.yakimamemorial.org.