Do think you are organized? Do think you are prepared? Do you think your parents are organized? Do you think your parents are prepared? Prepared and organized for what you ask? When an elderly parent or loved one becomes ill, there will be important health care decisions that inevitably will have to be made.
“The best way to avoid a problem is to prepare for it now,” says John E. Kasarda, Administrator of Little Brook Nursing and Convalescent Home in Califon, NJ. “There may come a time when you must help a loved one move into a nursing home if, for example, your loved one starts falling down often, develops bed sores, wanders away, and/or shows increasing signs of forgetfulness—like leaving the stove burners on overnight. They might be better cared for in a Licensed Skilled Nursing Home before a serious injury occurs. Anticipating such needs including care planning well in advance, however difficult, may be the most caring thing to do.” When one enters a Licensed Skilled Nursing Home, having these plans in place can relieve some of the stress when having to make important care decisions.
You have car insurance for an accident. You have home owner’s insurance if your home burns down; life insurance for end of life benefits; and a will for your estate upon your death. However, most frequently overlooked are an Advanced Health Care Directive and a Living Will. These two legal documents set forth your instructions on what health care you do and do not want if you become critically ill or unable to make or express your decisions. An Advanced Health Care Directive not only sets forth your wishes, if you cannot express them yourself with regard to your health care, it also names the person, called a “health care proxy”, who will make and/or carry out medical decisions on your behalf.
A Living Will sometimes only states your desires regarding life sustaining treatment if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. An Advanced Health Care Directive has a broader scope of directions. The best way to ensure that your wishes, in terms of health care, are executed is through your Advanced Health Care Directive and your Living Will. “These legal planning documents should be discussed and executed as soon as possible,” says Mr. Kasarda.
For example, if you have an Advanced Health Care Directive and you are stricken with dementia or Alzheimer’s, your health care proxy can make medical decisions for you. If you do not have an Advanced Health Care Directive, however, then your loved ones may have to apply to a Court to have a guardian appointed; otherwise, they may have to make health care decisions based on what they “think” you would want. The guardianship process can be lengthy and costly and can be avoided by discussing, drafting and signing these two important planning documents in advance.
“So, to avoid problems and to help your proxy caregiver make decisions regarding your health be prepared with plans,” says Mr. Kasarda. While you are healthy, have an attorney draft your Advanced Health Care Directive and your Living Will setting forth your choices and determinations. Don’t leave it to chance that your health care providers will give you only the care you want and not take extraordinary means to preserve your life, which you may or may not want taken. Don’t leave your family members in a situation where they will have to apply to a Court or make decisions for you without clearly knowing your wishes. All this difficulty can be avoided by preparing a Living Will and an Advanced Health Care Directive NOW! “A senior’s golden years should be about living in peace, happiness, dignity, comfort, safety and good health. Your loved one deserves care that is excellent, comprehensive and well planned!,” says Mr. Kasarda.
Editor: Dr. JP Hampilos, Senior Care Focus, LBHI; Interview excerpts of John E. Kasarda, Administrator, Little Brook Nursing and Convalescent Home on an article by Dennis J. Alessi, Esq. at Mandelbaum Salsburg, West Orange, NJ
Senior Care Focus, Issue No. 15.4, Early Fall 2015