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Taking Charge, Making Choices

Published by 4Hope on 2005/4/3 (3663 reads)
For some time now, ElderHope has been part of the Community Focus broadcasts at KEOM FM 88.5. This month we did four segments. This is the first of those segments. Most of use have experienced a degree of frustration, sadness, and anger as we have witnessed the tragic situation that surrounded Terri Schaivo. How can you prevent that in your own family? Have you done anything to prevent it? Find out what you need to know...[extend]

Taking Charge, Making Choices
KEOM & ElderHope
Recorded March 30, 2005 with Dr. James Griffin, station director

Q: So, Barb, what are we talking about today?

A: Most of us have watched the recent events surrounding Terri Schiavo with a mix of confusion, frustration and anger. Regardless of our perspectives, there is, for the moment at least, a great deal of urgency to the matter of Advance Directives. In recent days our website,, has been deluged with people searching for information on advance directives.

Q: Just to make sure we're all on the same page, what are advance directives again?

A: They are documents that set forth our wishes for how we want to be cared for if we are not able to communicate our choices. Specifically, they address what measures we want to be taken to keep us alive, who we want to make decisions for us, and what kinds of decisions we would want to be made on our behalf.

Q: And those are some of the major issues in the Schiavo case.

A: Right. The chief issues in her case relate to who has decision making power on her behalf and what kinds of decisions would she have wanted for herself. And, the problem is that her case reflects our society as a whole. In an ABC News poll last summer it was found that only 42% of Americans have a Living Will. And, we think that estimate is wishful thinking, much as the poll concluded what Americans are doing about end-of-life care in general. They write: “When it comes to planning for the future, many Americans talk a good game — but far fewer have taken specific action.” They have no will, nor a way – of meeting their goals for life's last chapters.

Q: Do you think that this is related to feeling like the documents are too complex or costly? Or is it something else?

A: That's a part of it, I think. I also think that it falls under that last thing on the list syndrome – that is that we don't want to think of it, though we know we should, so we mentally put it on the list of things we know we need to do, but we put it at the bottom. That way we can tell ourselves that it's there, but we don't have to deal with it right now.

Q: So how will things change as a result of Terri's situation?

A: Well, on a good level, it has caused a lot of people to think more seriously about their own end-of-life choices. But whether those people who are thinking will actually fill out the forms is something I'm not sure about. What is clear is this: That the potential for pain and harm to those we love is enormous when we fail to address these issues in meaningful and concrete ways. A Living Will, now called the Directive to Physicians, and the Durable Power of Attorney, the document that designates someone to make choices for us, can easily be filled out and completed in under thirty minutes. And, the documents are readily available through hospitals or – our site,, has links to several resources, many of them are available online. While many people may want their attorney to create these documents, they should at least complete one of these forms until their attorney is able to help them.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: Yes. The last responsibility we have in life is to try to do our best by our loved ones. If we fail to communicate what we want for the end of our lives, in both word and documents, we may cause much unnecessary guilt and pain to those we love most. This is not something to be left for the bottom of the list.

Tags: living   advance   coping   directive   medical   will   Power   Attorney   of   KEOM   Schiavo  

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