Just like peanut butter and jelly or green and gold, living wills and do not resuscitate orders go well together. A living will is a written document that allows you to tell your doctor about the type of life-sustaining treatment you want when you are near death or in a vegetative state. This document is created as part of your advanced directives. A living will reflects your wishes as your health situation changes. By making your wishes known, you are taking responsibility for how you want to be cared for. The State of Wisconsin has a template on their website
which can be downloaded, printed and reviewed. Once you make your decisions and sign your living will, give a copy to your primary physician, your hospital and your family.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows people who become unable to make their own decisions to exercise their beliefs and wishes regarding medical procedures. The person’s agent can communicate on behalf of the sick or injured person, preventing unwanted treatment or making necessary decisions in the event that the individual is unable to do so. The process of denoting a Health Care Power of Attorney is fairly straightforward and the privilege can be revoked at any time by filling out a new form and destroying the old copies of the previous form. The website noted above has the form for Healthcare Power of Attorney. This form can also be downloaded, printed and reviewed. Once you make your decisions, sign the document in front of two people who are not relatives and provide a copy to your primary physician, hospital, and family.
A Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) is a State of Wisconsin statute that encourages a conversation with your doctor. A DNR is for adults over the age of 18 who either have a terminal illness or a medical condition where CPR would be unsuccessful in restoring your heart or breathing functions. Becoming a DNR is a decision your doctor must agree is appropriate for you based on your health. If your doctor agrees, you and (s)he sign the document and a bracelet is worn identifying you as a DNR. The purpose of wearing the DNR bracelet is to alert medical professionals including EMTs, doctors, nurses, etc. that you are not to be resuscitated if you are no longer breathing, do not have a heartbeat or a pulse. There are different types of bracelets available, a plastic bracelet bearing your personal information and your doctor’s signature or a metal bracelet with your personal information and the international symbol of the Staff of Aesculapius.
If a person has a life threatening event, the DNR bracelet informs a medical provider that they should do the following to help you:
– Clear airways
– Administer oxygen
– Position for comfort
– Control bleeding
– Provide pain medication
– Provide emotional support
– Contact hospice or home health agency if either has been involved in the patient’s care, or patient’s attending physician
– Heimlich maneuver or similar procedure used to expel an obstruction from the throat
The DNR bracelet also informs a medical provider if you are not breathing, do not have a pulse or heartbeat, they will not:
– Perform chest compressions
– Insert an airway
– Administer cardiac resuscitation drugs
– Provide ventilator assistance
– Use a defibrillator
Having a DNR in place and wearing the bracelet ensures in an emergency everyone knows your wishes. A living will confirms your wishes about end-of-life care are honored.
We all know conversations about what should be done in an emergency and as your health changes can be difficult. Everyone who cares about you has their opinion. It is a valuable gift you can give to your family when you make your wishes known about the care that is important to you. A good way to ensure your wishes will be honored is by pre-planning with your loved ones and by involving your doctor.
Director of Hospice Operations