Should Disaster Strike, What Kind of Medical Care Would You Want?
Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.
That’s the message from Dr. Barak Gaster, an internist at the University of Washington School of Medicine who developed a document that allows patients to choose which medical interventions they would like to receive should they be diagnosed with dementia.
“Patients stumble into the advanced stage of dementia before anyone identifies it and talks to them about what’s happening,” Dr. Gaster told the New York Times. “At what point, if ever, would they not want medical interventions to keep them alive longer? A lot of people have strong opinions about this, but it’s hard to figure out how to let them express them as the disease progresses.”
More than 50 million people worldwide currently suffer from dementia, according to World Health Organization, an illness that deteriorates memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities. Although it mainly affects older people, it’s not part of the normal part of aging. That’s why Dr. Gaster developed his “dementia-specific advance directive,” which offers specific instructions for care that go beyond than a standard advance directive.
“The standard advance directives tend to focus on things like a ‘permanent coma’ or a ‘persistent vegetative state,’” Dr. Gaster told the New York Times. “Most of the time, they apply to a person with less than six months to live.”
At Feinberg Consulting, we support families facing difficult decisions every day, and we’ve spent more than 20 years helping individuals and families through their most difficult moments. While each situation is unique, we can say without question that hope, healing, and peace of mind are much more likely to occur when families come together to create an agreed-upon care plan.
Through our Bridgeway Senior Services division, we provide individuals and families with assistance in geriatric concerns, chronic illnesses and special needs by connecting them to the best possible care. Often times we’re not contacted until a serious event occurs, however, which requires difficult decisions to be made in a very short amount of time.
While some events are impossible to anticipate, it’s never too soon to start developing a care plan for a loved one facing a long-term illness. We should all hope for the best, but we should also take the actions we can before it’s too late. That’s what increases the likelihood of the best possible outcome.