Did you miss our April 10 online chat about end of life care hosted by Jennie Chin Hansen, CEO of the American Geriatrics Society and former AARP president? If so, a transcript of the discussion follows.
Comment from Pam: My dad asked me to be his durable power of attorney. What exactly is that?
Jennie Chin Hansen: A durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC) identifies the individual you want to make treatment decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make these decisions yourself. This individual — known as a “surrogate” or “advocate”— is usually a relative or close friend.
Before you prepare a DPAHC, you should make sure he or she is willing to make such decisions on your behalf. You should specify the type of medical care you do and do not want. Also, if you want your advocate to be able to refuse care needed to keep you alive, you must put this in writing in your DPAHC.
Comment from Lance: Hi Jennie, great to have you on! Advanced Directives: each state seems to have their own rules, but there are offerings out there that claim to provide templates that would be accepted in all 50 states. Should they be trusted?
Jennie Chin Hansen: Lance, you are right. Each state has its own rules. One way to check is to go to the American Bar Association's national website, which has collaborated with the American Medical Association and AARP who have looked at the best way to communicate and use tools from a national and state by state perspective.
Comment from Rachel: My brother is dying. We never had the conversation about his wishes and now we really need to know. How do we even bring it up with him? This is really hard but I know it is necessary.
Jennie Chin Hansen: Rachel, this has to be very hard for you and your family. One thought is to acknowledge how important it is to have his thoughts and wishes expressed. He is probably thinking a great deal about them but may need an opening from you to talk with him.
Comment from Alicia: My doctor has not mentioned anything to me or my sister about what my mother needs to prepare for the end of her life. She is terminally ill and her doctor keeps wanting to do tests and other treatments to prolong her life. How do we get him to understand this?
Jennie Chin Hansen: One of the simplest yet often under-utilized tools is the art and act of listening to learn what a patient wants. Teaching health care professionals how to listen and how to be comfortable complying with a patient’s wishes is an essential component of allowing people to die according to their wishes.
We need to be sensitive to perceptions, many of them culturally based, that can impede open discussions between health care professionals, patients and families, and to address these issues as part of health care professionals’ training in end-of-life care.
Comment from Lynn: Do I need a lawyer to sign my advance directive?
Jennie Chin Hansen: No. There are accepted preprinted forms that you will need a witness but it doesn't need to be a lawyer.