PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A coalition of national and state health care leaders launched a public health awareness campaign Tuesday, urging people to talk with their families about their health care wishes and to designate a medical decision maker.
The coalition, led by the PREPARE for Your Care program, released a set of guidelines to help the many Americans who have never had to make life-or-death medical decisions unexpectedly.
“During this pandemic, many hospitalized people may not be able to speak for themselves,” said founder and director of PREPARE for Your Care, Rebecca Sudore, MD, FAAPM. “Sadly, family and friends cannot visit. Our frontline health care providers are desperate for any information about their patients’ medical wishes. One of the most time-consuming challenges health care workers are facing right now is finding their patients’ health care proxy.”
Below are the steps provided by the coalition:
Have a Hospital Go Bag
If someone has to go to the hospital right now for any reason, they should consider preparing a bag with essential items that will be crucial for the medical team to care for them. During this time, friends and families cannot visit the hospital and bring things that the person may have left at home, such as a phone, advance directive or their glasses. The Hospital Go Bag should include:
- Written list of medications (or better yet, your pill bottles and/or inhaler boxes)
- Written phone numbers for medical decision maker, vital contacts, cellphone password
- Cellphone charger
- A copy of your advance directive and/or other important health-care paperwork
- Plans for pets or bills
- Equipment: Glasses, hearing aids, dentures, mobility devices, phone, tablet and/or computer, and their chargers; ear plugs, sleep mask, toothbrush, books or clothes from home; food, water and medication needed for a long wait
Choose a Medical Decision Maker
Select a person who will speak for you if you cannot speak
for yourself. Also known as a health care proxy, this person can make sure doctors know about the care you want. If able, you should choose a back-up medical decision maker. If able, fill out an advance directive or official form naming your health care decision maker. Give one copy of the completed form to your decision maker (and a backup decision maker), and have one copy ready for your health care team. Keep this person’s phone number written down in your purse or wallet.
Share Wishes + Encourage Loved Ones to Prepare
Think about what is most important in your life and for your medical care, and share this now with your family, friends and medical providers. You can share by phone, video call and/or a selfie video. Then, encourage your loved ones to prepare too: Ask them if they have a medical decision maker. Help them fill out an advance directive.
Health officials said picking a person and having difficult conversations prior to a medical crisis is a necessary measure given the circumstances.