It is reported by the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) that many seniors following the news about COVID-19 are concerned about contracting the illness and being put on a ventilator.
For some seniors, this is their greatest fear: being hooked to a machine, helpless, with the end of life looming. They don’t want to be put through this anguish under any circumstances. For them, ventilators are a fraught symbol, representing a terrifying lack of personal control as well as the fearsome power of technology with a machine pumping oxygen into a patient’s body while lying in bed, typically sedated, with a breathing tube snaked down the windpipe (known as “intubation”).
For some seniors, there is hope that the machine might pull them back from the brink, giving them another shot at life. It’s not an “all-or-nothing” view of ventilators and other medical steps that can be taken to achieve recovery.
What’s known about people’s chances “is really scanty,” said Dr. Carolyn Calfee, a professor of anesthesia at the University of California-San Francisco. It is generally reported that older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions such as heart, kidney or lung disease, are least likely to survive critical illness caused by the coronavirus or treatment with a ventilator, but frail older adults shouldn’t be lumped together with healthy, robust older adults, whose prospects may be better.
So many seniors are updating their advance medical directive (in Indiana a Living Will combined with a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney appointing a health care representative) to direct and specify how they want their care handled for COVID-19 and the possibility of being placed on a ventilator. Their directives might include how long they want to be willing to remain on a ventilator if improvement is not occurring or recovery is not likely. This coupled with directions about lifesaving measures to be taken as well as not to be taken if in a vegetative state with no possibility of recovery.
These are important discussions to have with the family and health care representative, and important instruments to prepare. It is recommended to discuss what’s most important that makes a good quality of life. This will provide the context to describe how care should be provided and decisions should be made.
Even if recovery is not likely, modern medicine is excellent at keeping the patient comfortable and trying to provide time for the patient to interact with family and friends.
Ted Nicholas has over thirty years of experience advising and consulting with businesses, business owners, families, and individuals, including developing appropriate business, estate, and succession plans. As an essential business, he continues to assist clients, including remote consultations or in-person at clients’ locations using CDC, recommended social distancing techniques.
Please do not hesitate to call, 317-590-8441, if we can be of assistance in preparing your Advance Medical Directive or other estate planning instruments. You find out more from our site: harrisnicholas.org