As sure as tax day, death for everyone, eventually, is a certainty. While we don't have a say in when it will happen or how, we do have control over some end-of-life issues.
Carolyn Nystrom, registered nurse and director of Hospice & Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley, presented information on advance directives and living wills during a Brown Bag talk Thursday, organized by St. Luke's Center for Community Health.
Nearly 30 people attended the session to hear about what advance directives are and how to make sure they are carried out if needed.
"This is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself and, more importantly, for your family," Nystrom said.
Advance directives go into effect only when people are unable to communicate their wishes, so creating one will not overrule their decisions as long as they are able to speak for themselves, she said.
Nystrom said many people don't know where to begin, or they proceed without considering what kind of quality of life is important to them.
"The first thing you need to do is think," she said.
She advised people to evaluate what constitutes quality of life.
"These are questions you need to think about for yourself, then talk to your family," she said. "There is not a right answer. The answer is your answer."
Without that information, family members can be left guessing at critical and emotional moments.
"It's agonizing for your families," she said.
Once people determine their advance directives, she said, they should write them down and tell loved ones about them. Encourage them to do the same.
Registering advance directives is not required for them to be in effect, but doing so can ensure that wishes are carried out if a person ends up in a medical facility away from one's physician or family—such as after a car accident during a road trip.
"If you go into an emergency room, they can download your advance directive so they would know what you wanted," she said.
She advised listeners to review directives regularly and after major life changes, such as marriage and divorce.
"Even young people should have a living will," she said. "If you're 18, you can do a living will."
Rebecca Meany: firstname.lastname@example.org
Glossary of terms
Advance directives are documents that let you tell someone what you want at some time in the future if you are not able to speak for yourself, said Carolyn Nystrom, director of Hospice & Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley.
A living will sets forth your instructions for dealing with life-sustaining medical procedures—such as whether to continue, withhold, or withdraw life-sustaining systems—in the event you are unable to decide for yourself, according to the Idaho Attorney General's Office.
A durable power of attorney for health care allows you to appoint a person to make all decisions regarding your health care, including choices regarding health care providers and medical treatment, if you are not able to make them yourself.
Get forms, register forms
The Idaho Health Care Directive Registry form authorizes the Secretary of State's Office to file a person's documents in the Idaho Health Care Directive Registry. To download forms and register the directive, visit the Idaho secretary of state's website, www.sos.idaho.gov. Attach the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care form, also available on that website. Or, request that a packet be mailed to you by calling 208-332-2814.
Have more questions?
The Idaho Attorney General's Office provides answers to frequently asked questions on this website: www.ag.idaho.gov/livingWills/livingWills_faqs.html. Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley, in Ketchum, maintains a library for community use that has end-of-life and bereavement resources. The nonprofit organization does not charge for its services. Call 726-8464 for information.