By DEVIN WEEKS
POST FALLS — This year, Tax Day falls right in the middle of National Healthcare Decisions Day Week.
"National Healthcare Decisions Day is a national movement to help people remember to look at their advance directives, living wills, powers of attorney," said registered nurse Amy Garwood. "The day after you get your taxes all buttoned up, go ahead and look at these documents to make sure that whomever you’ve chosen to be your power of attorney or decision-maker is still in the area or still capable of making those decisions. We’re hoping people will review these documents."
Garwood and elder law attorney Katherine Coyle, accompanied by hospice and health care colleagues, gave a presentation titled "Start the Conversation" Thursday in Garden Plaza of Post Falls.
The purpose of the seminar was to educate residents and community members about the importance of having end-of-life plans in place, or at least opening the dialogue with loved ones about what to do when the unspeakable happens.
“Has anyone heard of National Healthcare Decisions Day?” Garwood asked.
“It’s one of my favorite holidays,” quipped one of the attendees, causing a few chuckles among the small crowd.
Jokes aside, National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is a reminder to examine what plans are in place for when a tragedy happens. "It always seems too early, until it's too late" serves as the NHDD slogan.
"The biggest thing is making sure people of all ages, especially over the age of 18, have some kind of advance directive in place," Garwood said. "Over the last 20, 30 years, the biggest ethical cases were young women in their 30s who had something traumatic happen and hadn’t communicated their wishes to their families ahead of time and didn’t have advance directives in place. These things can happen. We want people to start having the conversation."
Garwood and Coyle explained what advance directives are — they're legal documents that specify actions to be taken in the event of death or other crisis rendering people incapable of speaking for themselves — as well as the differences between a living will and last will and testament. They discussed POST (Idaho Physician for Scope of Treatment), do-not-resuscitate orders and other documentation necessary for family members and emergency responders to know what to do in life-and-death situations.
Although these documents are extremely helpful, only 25-40 percent of Americans have a living will. Garwood said she realizes it is difficult to contemplate one's own demise, but the conversation must start somewhere so each person can receive the care he or she wants.
Garwood and Coyle highlighted the Five Wishes, an easy-to-understand living will document that meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in ??Idaho. The Five Wishes encompass who will make decisions for you if you're unable, what medical treatment you want and don't want, how comfortable you want to be, how you want to be treated and what you want your loved ones to know.
"It's really important to think about, 'What is quality of life for me? What are my hopes and fears?'" Garwood said. "There's a lot of opportunity for you to be able to have a lot of choice."
And, she emphasized, taking control while a person is still capable saves loved ones a lot of heartache. Grieving family members who don't know what to do can be torn apart during this process.
"We've literally seen fist fights in emergency rooms," Garwood said.
April Howard, sales manager of Garden Plaza and seminar organizer, said Garden Plaza is pleased to host these events and serve as an educational resource venue for community members and seniors.
"This is all about being a guide to help them with planning and preparing for their futures," she said.
Info: www.theconversationproject.org or www.nhdd.org