It is the call no one is prepared to receive: “Susan, mom’s being rushed to the hospital; I don’t want her to be there by herself. Can you get there as soon as possible?”


Susan’s mother, who has been living with congestive heart failure (CHF), has begun to show signs of worsening in the last few days; she is swelling more and having a harder time breathing.


She has now lost consciousness and is being rushed to the hospital via ambulance.


Susan’s mother never imagined that, at only 68, she would find herself in a position where she could not communicate her own needs. Her children have now been informed that her CHF has progressed steadily; they’ve been handed the shocking blow that their mother is terminal and must instantaneously come together to make the sort of decisions that will determine how their mother spends the end of her life.


One of the first things Susan and her siblings will be asked by medical staff at the hospital: “is anyone designated to make decisions on your mother’s behalf? Does she have her advance directives completed?” Susan’s mother might not be able to make the necessary decisions for herself regarding the sort of medical care she will receive.


Advance directives are a set of legal directives, directing family, friends and medical staff of the medical care one wishes to receive in the event she is unable to communicate her wishes.


Advance directives can include a medical power of attorney and living will or Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST) form.


A medical power of attorney is the advance directive, designating a person to make decisions and communicate on one’s behalf when becoming temporarily or permanently unable to make decisions regarding medical care.


A living will or MOST form is the advance directive, communicating one’s wishes regarding how life-sustaining measures should be handled. This can include what, if any, equipment should be used; whether or not resuscitation should be attempted (DNR); how food, liquid and tube feeding should be handled; and also, one’s wishes regarding organ and tissue donation.


Any person, 18 years or older, can get her advance directives completed, and on file, making her wishes known, not only to family and friends, but to medical staff should the unthinkable happen and a car wreck or other unfortunate event in another state or city occur.


Advance directives will not expire until or unless a person creates and signs a new one or the person dies. For example: a person who creates her advance directives when she is 25 may have different directives when she is 85; however, each person’s directive will be subjective at any age based on his or her own wishes.


To get your advance directives done, at no cost, contact your local health department, Area Agency on Aging, hospice, or your health care provider. An attorney can also provide services.


While Susan’s mother had hoped she might escape this day or it would have found her later in life, having her advance directives completed would have given her a voice, stating her wishes, and saving her children the agony and argument amongst them, while they’re in an emotional and vulnerable state, trying to determine how she lives out her final days.