Meridian Star

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January 19, 2014

Transitioning requires preparation

MERIDIAN — Are you in transition?   This question is not specifically directed at baby boomers, although they are surely in a state of transition now – moving from middle age to seniorhood. My sister is snappier now than when she was dieting – practically all the time! (I feel closer to her now than ever before.)     Going online to see what Googling would tell me about the “T” word, I found that there is a book on the subject: "Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges." This publication claims to "provide strategies for coping with the difficult, painful and confusing times in your life." That is certainly a book I could have used the first year after college ... and several years since.

    A program on the radio this weekend about various religious affiliations spoke of one certain group which did not refer to a person’s death, but rather their transition – having passed from this life into another (hopefully better) one. After all, death is not necessarily the end, depending on your belief system. Isn’t it a better expression, much like a passing or crossing over? Whichever, our own death is not an easy topic to begin to talk about.

    Consequently, we held a workshop on living wills at Meridian Activity Center with Meridian attorney George Culpepper and RSVP Director Diana Glover. Culpepper spoke to us about the legal ramifications of such documents and Glover notarized the forms we filled out.     Also known as Advance Health Care Directive, a living will allows you to assign someone to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to do so. It also allows you to make specific instructions about your health care. This is an opportunity to express your feelings about applying treatment to keep you alive, such as artificial nutrition and hydration, as well as providing pain relief. The forms we used came from a website specifically directed by Mississippi laws.

    For these forms to be considered legal "and binding," they should either be notarized in the presence of a notary public or signed in front of two witnesses –who also sign the documents. A copy should be in your medical file and in a place where family and/or friends can find it.

    Another thing, if you have any kind of relationship with your physician, let him or her know your wishes. If they have their own ideas about a comatose patient and no family member is present to refer to a living will, the doctor would probably insert a feeding tube. It is difficult for doctors to be absolutely positive about what the comatose patient perceives. They therefore order feeding tube as a matter of routine to appease distraught family members, and/or as a way of hastening discharge from the hospital to a nursing home and reducing expenses.

    In the case of Israeli politician and general Ariel Sharon – who had been in a coma and on a feeding tube since suffering a stroke in 2006 – his sons felt there was still some brain function and insisted on aggressive treatment, as their father "looks at me and moves fingers when I ask him to." In 2010, they removed him from the hospital and took him home. (American socialite Sunny von Bulow was stayed in such a state for 28 years until her death in 2008.)

    It is a lot to consider, but best to talk it over with loved ones and your doctor to be sure of what you would want him or her to do. The instructions are quite clear on the forms we have downloaded and you may add any other wishes you chose to make. Call me at the center if you have any questions.

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