Chief Executive Officer, Mission Hospital McDowell
When I think of advance healthcare decision making, I remember my mother, who would frequently tell my sisters and me that she never wanted to be on a device to support her breathing. When it came time to make a determination about her survival, all of the daughters had an overwhelming sense of peace knowing we were upholding her wishes for healthcare.
There is no “perfect” time for having a conversation with your loved ones about who would be your voice for healthcare decisions if you were unable to speak for yourself. In fact, since these difficult conversations bring up painful thoughts, many of us avoid having them. Yet it is so important that we do take the time to have them. I have worked in the healthcare industry for more than 35 years, and I can attest to the fact that when a patient experiences a medical emergency or faces debilitating or terminal illness – and they have not made their wishes known – it causes confusion for family members and caregivers alike.
We celebrate National Healthcare Decisions Day on Tuesday, April 16th this year, and I want to emphasize the importance of talking to your loved ones about your wishes as well as your physician – and even better – completing the documents we know to be critical in clarifying patient preferences regarding a wide range of medical interventions that exist in every modern healthcare facility.
An Advanced Care Directive is an overarching term for a range of documents: They ensure a patient’s wishes around medical treatment will be honored if they are not able to speak for themselves. A Living Will allows a patient to provide answers about specific lifesaving and life-extending medical treatments and choices, such as whether they are willing to be fed through a tube, if they wish to donate their organs, and their decision about receiving Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
A Healthcare Power of Attorney records who the patient has chosen to be their medical decision making “voice” throughout any period in which they receive treatment but are not able to make their own decisions. The person chosen for this job is one who the patient should speak extensively with, as the commitment is serious and long-term.
That said, these Advanced Medical Directive documents are not static and should be reviewed annually. Patients may change their minds about what procedures they are amenable to, as well as who their chosen medical representative is.
Advanced care planning is a prime example of another important type of self-care, and another way that patients and their families can partner with their caregivers. Taking the reins of our own care – including preparing for potentially serious situations – is truly the kindest and most responsible thing we can do for our families. When there is no guesswork for them or a patient’s caregivers, treatment can be more efficiently delivered, and customized in the ways that the patient desires.
We are doing our part to celebrate National Healthcare Decisions Day by hosting an interactive education event for community members on Tuesday, April 16th at 6pm in the Rankin Conference Room located on the Terrace level here at Mission Hospital McDowell. During the session you will be educated about Living Wills, making your Advanced Directive for end-of-life care, and choosing a Healthcare Power of Attorney (and knowing the difference between a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Legal Power of Attorney).
The session is free to everyone and open to the public. Philip Long, our Community Connections Manager, will be facilitating the event. A notary will be on hand to notarize all documents for those who desire to do so.
We at Mission Hospital McDowell continue our efforts to reach out with relevant healthcare information that assists patients in becoming more educated, better prepared, and highly empowered healthcare consumers. Your wishes matter.
Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer of Mission Hospital McDowell. She holds both Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in nursing administration from the University of Tennessee, is board certified in Healthcare Management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Carol, who has served hospitals and health systems for more than three decades, has worked to add full-time cardiology services, led growth in outpatient services including imaging and surgery, and the expansion of primary care offering in Burke County since assuming her role as President at McDowell Hospital in 2015. She is an active member in Rotary and serves as a Board member for the Rutherford/Polk/McDowell Health District Board of Directors, the Corpening YMCA Board of Directors, and the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.