Thinking about and recording emergency medical care choices is not about death. It is all about how you wish to be treated while you are alive.
Someday, you may be brought to a hospital in critical condition. You may be confused or unable to answer questions that are asked of you. You are not dead and, in actuality (and hopefully), you might not die.
If you are sedated and admitted to the hospital, how will the staff know who to contact and what you like or want?
When I worked as a hospital chaplain, I cared for a young man who was in a coma. The nursing staff realized that he became agitated when the room was quiet. His family brought in music from several of his favorite recording artists. When the music was played, he rested peacefully. How did his family know what to do? He told them in advance.
My point is that hospital or medical care is not just about physical care. It should and does include emotional and spiritual care as well as basic life preferences.
This can even help when the situation is not as critical. For instance, my wife, Naomi, hates to sleep with the blankets tucked tightly around her feet. If something should happen to her, I want to make sure that she is as comfortable as possible. Because I know her wishes, I will be able to relay this to the nursing staff.
While writing an Advance Directive is detailed and usually focuses mainly on end-of-life or death decisions, the following questions may help others care for you when you are critically ill.
What other kinds of non-medical information should the medical staff know about you?
Can you answer the following questions?
- If I am admitted to the hospital or I am facing a long recuperation, either at home or in a rehabilitation facility, who would I want to be notified and wish to come visit?
- Is it okay to post information about my illness or injury on social media?
- Am I more afraid of being in pain or being drugged to the point of not being able to visit with people?
- Are there any particular foods that would make me happy (assuming that I have the approval of the doctor)?
- Do I prefer quiet in my room or do I want music? If music, what kind?
- If I am unable to read, would I like audiobooks or someone to read to me?
- If I am in a coma or drugged, do I want someone just to sit with me?
- Do I want my rabbi, priest or other spiritual leader to visit me?
- Do I want the person who makes decisions to be the Emergency Room doctor or would I rather have someone who knows me and knows what I want to make those decisions?
- If I have identified a person to speak on my behalf (medical power of attorney or agent), does he or she know what I want to happen if current treatment is not working?
Remember, you may be healthy and active now, but don’t put off making some of these decisions today. Think of it like a health insurance policy. Hopefully you will never have to use it, but if you do, it is great to know it is available! Knowing what you want to happen is only the first step in the process. Writing your wishes down is the second. Telling someone whom you trust is essential.