What happens if you become so sick or suffer such severe injuries that you become incapacitated and can no longer make health care decisions on your own? In these cases, the burden of making health care decisions may fall on your loved ones. How will they know what to decide? If an individual in Kansas City has created a durable health care power of attorney and a living will, these documents can help an individual’s loved ones make such decisions. However, lets take a step back and consider what types of emergency treatments these documents may cover.

First of all, one type of emergency treatment that may be used to extend an individual’s life is cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known as CPR. The person performing CPR will press on the individual’s chest and blow air into the individual’s lungs. If successful, CPR can allow a person’s heart to continue functioning. However, if a person is older and very sick, CPR may not always work.

Another type of life-extending treatment that may be used is the use of artificial hydration and nutrition. For example, an individual who can no longer drink may receive fluids intravenously. In addition, if an individual can no longer eat, that person could receive nutrition through a feeding tube. It is important to keep in mind that if an individual is dying, such treatments may actually cause more discomfort.

Finally, sometimes a person becomes so sick or is so severely injured that the person cannot effectively breathe. In these situations, a ventilator may be used to assist in breathing. Through a ventilator, a tube will be inserted into an individual’s windpipe in a process that is called intubation. A person will receive medication that will render them unconscious while they are being intubated, since the process can cause discomfort. Sometimes surgery is needed in such situations.

These are only some medical treatments that can be addressed through care planning. Through the creation of a health care power of attorney or a living will, individuals may make their end-of-life decisions known, which could be of great comfort to their loved ones should they be tasked with the responsibility of making such decisions during what may be an emotionally difficult time.

Source: National Institute on Aging, “Advance Care Planning,” accessed Jan. 24, 2016

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