Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Who Will Decide?

Many readers of this blog are focused and dedicated on living a healthy lifestyle.  We try to keep an exercise routine, make healthy food choices, and keep our stress level down.  This focus on healthy living is commendable and certainly worth the effort.  One thing that many of us tend to ignore or prefer not to think about is an abrupt change in our health, such as an accident or sudden illness.

While these topics can be a little depressing, they are certainly worth a few minutes of your time.  Who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you are not able to make them yourself?  Who will provide for your spouse or children if you are not able to do so?  What will happen to your organs if you are no longer able to use them?  All of these questions are important to consider.  If you are sick, or even worse, unconscious, would you want your family members burdened with the need to make these decisions for you?

Luckily, we have several ways for you to provide the answers to these questions!  Advance directives are legally binding documents that express your wishes in case you are unable to speak for yourself.  Remember the case of Terri Schiavo?  The medical fight between her husband and her parents would never have reached the Supreme Court if she had only taken time to fill out a living will.  Know someone who has benefitted from a donated organ?  That gift was provided by someone who is a registered organ donor.  Millions of organs are wasted every year because we don’t take time to register as organ donors.

So, what options are available to you?
1.  Living Will – this is a document that you fill out as a competent adult.  You make choices as to what type of services you would like in the case of a severe accident or illness (e.g., life support vs no life support).  The best place to obtain a living will document is from your local hospital.  Simply request the form, fill it out, have it notarized, and return it to your primary care physician.  It’s as simple as that!
2.  Power of Attorney – within a living will, you will designate someone to be your Power of Attorney.  That person will make decisions for you regarding finances and any health decision that you don’t specify in your living will.  Most people choose a spouse or adult child to be their Power of Attorney, but the choice is up to you.  Be sure to tell the person that they have been chosen – this isn’t something that should come up as a surprise.
3.  Uniform Anatomical Gift Act – anyone over the age of 18 can register as an organ donor.  Generally, this indication is made on your driver’s license, but you can also include your wishes on a living will or within your medical record.  Millions of people are waiting for organs, so please consider becoming an organ donor today!

For more information on advance directives and organ donation, please see these websites:

Valerie J Connor, MA CCC-SLP


Betty Harrison said...

Thank you Valerie, this information is so important. I just went through this process with my mother and we all feel so much better having all the paperwork in place.

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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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