Medical Durable Power of Attorney vs Living Will/Five Wishes
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My sister and I are not doctors or lawyers and we don’t claim to be. Because of our mother, my mother-in-law, my sister’s husband/my brother-in-law and this support group, we have been dealing with Parkinson’s Disease since 1993. The following is based on fact and our experiences with our own loved ones and the experiences of numerous members of the support group. The advice we are giving here is to help keep a person with Parkinson’s from dying prematurely and unnecessarily because of doctor’s and the medical profession in general’s ignorance of Parkinson’s Disease. Unfortunately, the fact is, the majority of doctors know very little about Parkinson’s Disease and, as result, a person with Parkinson’s life is in jeopardy if that person needs to be hospitalized or sent to an institution like rehab, assisted living or nursing home facilities. For that reason, you need to have all the tools necessary at your disposal to ensure that the Parkinsonian doesn’t lose his/her life because of that ignorance.
First and foremost, you need to be armed with a Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA). You may not have heard of an MDPOA but I know you’ve heard of a Living Will. They are distinctly different documents and you need to know the difference between them and the pros and cons of both. The MDPOA covers your health care needs all through the rest of your life and can also include your end-of-life directives. The Living Will just covers your end-of-life directives.
Medical Durable Power of Attorney:
Important Note: A common end-of-life directive is to not be put on a feeding tube. I want to point out that there’s a huge difference between an end-of-life feeding tube and a temporary feeding tube needed to get someone back to normal. For Parkinsonians, it is especially critical that you understand the difference. The likelihood of not getting your meds on time in a hospital setting is pretty much assured. If you’re in the mid to later stages of Parkinson’s and this happens you will likely no longer be able to swallow…not food, water or meds ever again. If this happens, the only way to recover from that is to have a temporary feeding tube inserted to get the meds back into you so you can swallow again. It’s a TREATMENT like taking an antibiotic to get over an infection. If you refuse this treatment simply because it’s a feeding tube, you will inevitably die. There have been a couple of cases in our support group where the Parkinsonian died because the family refused to allow a feeding tube for treatment because of that patient’s end-of-life directives which stated that he didn’t want a feeding tube. Because we’re talking about Parkinson’s Disease which makes the need for this treatment more likely, I suggest that you allow for a temporary feeding tube for treatment in the MDPOA and specify in the end-of-life directives only that you don’t want a feeding tube if that is, indeed, the case.
Recommended website: www.coloradoadvancedirectives.com
Unfortunately, the majority of doctors and medical professionals do not understand Parkinson’s and the life and death importance of medication management in the mid to later stages of the disease. The support group has had far too many of our members who were hospitalized for something non-life threatening and ended up dying because of the doctor’s ignorance of Parkinson’s. It’s for that reason that it’s imperative that you have an MDPOA so that you have an advocate who is looking out for your best interest and can and is willing to run interference and fight to get you the proper care that you need. Hospital doctors tend to just concentrate on the reason you are hospitalized and neglect your other conditions. And since most doctors don’t know much about Parkinson’s they don’t realize that if you neglect the Parkinson’s they could be causing the death of the patient. Having an MDPOA is the only way to lessen the risk of that happening. You can include your end-of-life directives that you would normally have in a Living Will but without the risk of having no way to reverse an incorrect terminal condition diagnosis. Your agent will have to approve all health decisions before anything is carried out. Personally, I would rather have someone who knows and cares about me making these decisions rather than some random doctor making life and death decisions for me.
Jill D. Reid
Acting President/Senior Vice President
Colorado Parkinson Foundation, Inc and Colorado Springs Parkinson's Support Group
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