• Julie Katz

Time to have "The Talk"

The time to have end of life discussions is when you are healthy.

I am sure your parents had the 'birds and the bees' talk with you way before you really were attracted to others, unless of course you learned about it in the junior high bathroom. Now, you should be talking to your healthy parents about end of life choices. Especially during the times of COVID-19, so many older adults have been stricken by the illness and in critical care in no time.

It is not as simple as do they want you to "pull the plug." There are many different levels of medical intervention people can choose. Some examples are:

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR): This means if your heart stops on its own, you will not be given CPR. You may want to check with your parents' doctor on this one. Often CPR does not work on older adults and only results in unnecessary and aggressive treatment.

Withdrawal of hydration and nutrition: This may sound barbaric, but it is a feeding tube to sustain someone who is usually in the final stages of life. It is used to keep someone who is gravely ill alive. Two doctors must also consent this.

Comfort care: Keeping the patient comfortable with hydration and nutrition plus any pain medication to make a person comfortable but not delay death with any treatments.

Other considerations: Do you want a ventilator, dialysis, chemotherapy?

If your parent trusts you or another sibling, they can name you as their durable power of attorney for health care. That means if they cannot make decisions, they have given you the authority to make them in your place. However, they should discuss, and put on paper, what they would like you to do. You may want to have them notarized to remove any doubt about their validity.

The forms needed to express these decisions can be found here for Ohio residents:

Some things to consider:

To save everyone more heartache, please, please make sure every sibling is aware of your parents' wishes. If they choose one child to be the decision maker, they need to tell the other siblings. Truly do you need family squabbling on top of a health crisis.

If you choose DNR and you go into the Emergency Department for something that is not imminently life threatening, make sure the medical staff knows that you understand that DNR does not mean do not treat. Too often, medical personnel may ask if they see a DNR order if you want to treat an infection or something easily curable. You need to be your relative's advocate in this case.

While I know this is a macabre topic, advanced planning will make a bad situation easier. It will allow you to focus on your parent's needs and not be burdened with guilt or fighting with family.

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