Larry’s car flipped over on the parkway and he crawled out only slightly injured. Rushed to the hospital, hundreds of miles from home, at only 25 years old he wasn’t sure what to do. When his mother tried to get information from the hospital, no one would talk to her. Larry’s father had to drive halfway across the country to be with their son and get information by being at his side. When Larry was back with his family, they sat down and had a conversation. What if Larry could not speak for himself, was intubated, was forever in need of life support? Now, Larry carries a healthcare proxy form in his wallet with his mother’s name on it and she too has a copy.
Today, we fear getting sick more than usual. We are being told: “wash your hands, disinfect surfaces and door knobs. Stay six feet away from people.” That makes sense and we need to listen to what the experts say.
But, what about when you become sick, can’t breathe, and have to go to the hospital? Who will be the person you trust to grab what you need, such as your list of medications and your list of medical conditions and medical history? Who will help prepare your list of questions on your way to the hospital? And if you wind up on a ventilator, who will speak for you when you can’t speak for yourself?
About Advance Directives:
When you arrive at the hospital your admission packet will very often include a form that asks who you assign to speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself.
This form may be called something like “healthcare proxy,” and records your choice of an agent or or surrogate to speak for you. Though you may have chosen someone (spouse, best friend or adult child), do they know what you want them to say? This is very different from what an advocate does. Unless your advocate (spouse, friend or a professional advocate) is also assigned in the role to make decisions for you, they will not be able to help make decisions you want made.