MedWatch- Creating an advanced directive

LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- It's a decision no family wants to make, but experts say talking about end of life care is something that families must face. Doctors say this is a good time of the year to talk to your loved ones.

Conversations at the family holiday table most likely do not include discussions about what you want done at the end of your life. Preparing for death is something Americans are not good at. In fact, research shows only 1 in 4 of us have completed an "advanced directive", a document that lists our end-of-life preferences should terminal illness strike.

"The purpose of the advanced directive is to prevent that suffering. And to allow people to say before the situation occurs, what they would want to have happen if they were terminally ill, brain dead, or in a persistent vegetative state and starting to die."

Home Health and Hospice Medical Director Dr. Richard Brittingham says another important part of this document is designating a health care proxy, or someone who would speak for you if you were unable to make decisions.

"Someone that you trust, someone that knows how you feel. Because if you're not conscious and can't speak to the physicians in the emergency room for example, or the intensive care unit, this proxy can speak for you."

It also tells doctor's whether or not you would want artificial hydration and nutrition. Dr. Brittingham says doctors and patients should be discussing this before the crisis happens. He says no one should die in pain.

"So many times the patient languishes in the ICU, languishes in the hospital in pain and suffering with tubes out of every orifice. And that's not what they would have wanted. Talk to whoever your loved ones are that would be in the emergency room that time when that crisis happens. Talk with them and let them know how you feel so that your wishes are honored."

Dr. Brittingham says no matter how well you are now, talk with your Doctor about getting your advanced directive filled out. It could save you and your family a lot of pain and suffering.

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