A few nights ago I was reminded how quickly a life can go off the rails. Someone I love is in the ICU after a relatively common and curable illness went on a rampage inside her. What was initially assumed to be a flare-up of a chronic issue became increasingly more problematic as additional symptoms followed. The symptoms compounded one another over a few weeks until a trip to the primary care doctor resulted in an unexpected trip to the ER, followed by several surgeries and now days in the ICU. She’s getting the best care, everything is being done to restore her, and we’re all praying that she recovers and recuperates fully.
Situations like this occur every day in our healthcare system. Patients undergo extensive surgeries, are attended in the ICU by teams of dedicated nurses and doctors who monitor every single bodily function for any change. In the meantime, adult children are scrambling. They are being dragged into the quagmire of complex healthcare decisions and procedures; some with very little understanding of the medical “lingo”. Some operate under the motto “Physician Knows Best” and don’t question anything. Others may consider the route of “do nothing” and elect hospice. Still others may be visited by palliative care personnel who will offer advice about pain management and symptom control. Some adult children may be afraid NOT to continue with surgeries/procedures; others may be afraid to agree to proceed with surgery.
While things are spinning out of control around them, they watch a loved one lying in an ICU bed surrounded by tubes and drains and machines and beeping. These adult children are being thrust into having to making decisions on behalf of their parents (or other loved ones) with little (if any) preparation to know what course of action is desired by the patient.
They’re thrust/dragged into this nightmare for many different reasons but typically for any combination of these three:
- No healthcare power of attorney exists on paper or electronic record
- They’re the next of kin
- They’re the people standing around the bed or sleeping in the waiting room
Hearing my cousin’s exhaustion through the phone the other night after she spent the entire day in the hospital awaiting the outcome of another surgery, I wished I could save her from the anguish of the uncertainty of knowing what to do and when to do it.
Caring Choices intends to keep people from being dragged into healthcare quagmires or thrust into the service of a loved one without the knowledge, preparation and courage to make difficult decisions. We believe that talking with your family about healthcare choices can be a welcomed lifeline. Reach out and grab it.
© 2015 Caring Choices