Day 29 – PLANNING ~ Communication, Advance Directives & Legal Considerations When Managing Lung Cancer
GREAT NEWS ~ There are ways to share with your family, friends and health care team what YOU want for YOUR body!! Called “Advance Directives”, these documents legally and logically spell out, ahead of time, your desires for your treatment and care.
Health Care Power of Attorney (or Health Care Proxy): This document identifies the person that you would want to make health care decisions on your behalf if you cannot make those decisions on your own. This trusted person must be able to make decisions on your behalf under potentially highly stressful times and per YOUR desires, based on the information he or she knows at that time. Even if the person you designate has a different preference for your care, it is not about them; it is their role to ensure that YOUR wishes for your body and your treatment are being carried out by your health care team!
Living Will: Your Living Will provides the framework for your family and health care team to treat you in the way YOU desire per your wishes. Among other questions, it outlines under what circumstances you may or may not want to be resuscitated if your heart stops; would you want to have dialysis or be on a breathing machine if you organs or lungs aren’t working; do you want to be fed through a feeding tube if you can’t swallow? These parameters may be the same or may differ depending on the anticipated duration of your health issue. For example, do doctors think your condition will last a week and you’ll be back to the gym again if they can ‘just get you through this speed bump’, or that your condition is ‘terminal’ and that treatment would only extend your days and pain? What do you want your doctors to do if you are in a ‘persistent vegetative state’? The Living Will tells your family and doctors which treatment/s you do or don’t want if your life is threatened and you are unable to make decisions for yourself at that time.
Five Wishes Booklet: Able to be the legal document of your specific wishes in 42 states, the Five Wishes booklet can also be used concurrently with your other advance directives legal in your state. It is written in a clear and understandable way, opening the doors of communication for your and your loved ones and care team to discuss your wishes for your health care and, if needed, your end-of-life care. In addition to naming your Health Care Power of Attorney and your specific treatment desires in a Living Will in case you can’t verbalize your decision at any point, the booklet dives much deeper into other areas you may wish to discuss with those you love. What are your preferences for comfort, for example? Do you want frequent warm baths if they don’t cause you pain, do you desire pain medication even if it makes you very drowsy and unable to communicate, and would you like music playing in your room? What kind? How would you like people to treat you? Do you want an atmosphere with many people surrounding you in your room, or do you prefer to have only certain people sit with you and hold our hand in what might be your final hours? What are other wishes that you want your loved ones to know? Do you want them to feel joy instead of sorrow when they think of you? Do you have a specific place you would like your ashes to be spread? Do you have a song, poem or prayer that you would like to have said if someone has the privilege of holding your hand as you take your last breath? What do you want your funeral to be like, or do abhor the thought of a traditional funeral? The Five Wishes booklet is a great conversation starter and empowering way to share your wishes for YOUR care!
Advance Directives templates are available online and sometimes legalities do vary by state; you may like to have yours reviewed by a legal team, as well. You will keep a copy, give a copy to your loved ones and certainly the Health care Power of Attorney you name. Also give a copy to your health care providers, hospital, nursing home, etc. In some states, a separate “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR order is required in addition to your Living Will, and a POLST (Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment) document can help guide your doctors to care for you per your specific pre-designated wishes. You can change them at any time, so why not create yours today!? You are not promised tomorrow…
Regardless of the legalities as implemented by the government, these documents CAN serve as conversation starters, as well as holding people accountable to act in your best interest. What a lovely thing to know that you will be cared for per YOUR preferences!