The Arizona Republic
March 30, 2019
Lin Sue Cooney, guest columnist
April 16 is not just another day on your calendar. This year, it also happens to be National Healthcare Decisions Day. A day when people in all 50 states are encouraged to do some end-of-life planning.
Before you stop reading, just let this sink in: None of us knows how much time we have.
Advance directives force us to face our mortality but also give us a gift — peace of mind.
It’s a lot easier to make decisions when they’re hypothetical and you can calmly discuss your wishes without a medical emergency bearing down on you. Being pro-active saved Julie Bresnahan a lot of anguish. She and her husband, Michael, had made a plan long before he was diagnosed with dementia.
“The vascular dementia came on so slowly, I didn’t really think it was something serious,” she said. “But it wasn’t long before his decision-making ability was impaired. So I was very grateful we did advance directives years and years ago, because everything was in place.”
As Michael‘s dementia advanced, Julie clung to his written wishes, which clearly expressed no desire for extraordinary measures, just comfort care. It was a huge relief, not to wonder if she should try experimental treatments or any number of medications to alter the course of the disease.
“I know what he wants, and I don’t have any angst over it. I don’t have a moment’s concern. No guilt. No confusion. Nothing. It’s just peaceful. It comforts me to know what he wants, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Health-care decisions involve three actionable items:
- First, make a living will.
- Second, choose a medical power of attorney who will advocate for you in case you’re incapacitated.
- And last, talk to your family about your wishes long before an accident or illness occurs.
Having not one, but several, open and honest conversations is critical, so every family member understands from the beginning exactly what you want.
Julie believes planning ahead is an extraordinary kindness for loved ones: “It’s not quite so painful for them, so they don’t question right at the end, ‘Is this the right thing?’ ”
When you’re ready for the forms, Hospice of the Valley provides them free of charge. For the past 18 years, we’ve handed out living will and medical power of attorney forms to anyone in the community. Just give us a call at (602) 222-2229 or visit hov.org and type “healthcare decisions” in the search bar.
Lin Sue Cooney is director of community engagement for Hospice of the Valley. She was a newscaster at 12 News for 31 years.