MedWatch: Advance Care Planning

“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote is quite fitting this time of year.

Tax Day is traditionally April 15.

That’s why the medical industry chose April 16 as a day to talk about that other inevitable, death. 

Learn about why that discussion is so important to your family in today’s Medwatch Report.

"I don’t know what was going through my wife’s mind at the time. I collapsed at her feet and she’s doing what she’s doing, and I know she did it effectively, quickly, skillfully."

Jim Batsakis came in from shoveling last year and hit the floor. His wife called 911 and did CPR until paramedics arrived.

"They did manual CPR, mechanical CPR and defibrillated me four times before I got to the hospital," says Jim.

Doctors didn’t know if he would make it.

He was 66 years old.

"My paternal grandfather, a paternal uncle and myself all had a heart attack at 66" explains Jim.

A reality check for Jim and his family, and a reminder about preparing, in case this ever happened again.

"It’s very important that she knows and that both our sons know, so that they form a support system and a unified voice, what kinds of things I would consider a situation not surviving, what is acceptable and what is a quality worth living," says Jim.

It’s called advance care planning.

"We are planning in advance for that what if moment. What if something tragic happens, or what if I’m in a car accident? And in letting your loved ones know what you would want or wouldn’t want and what’s important to you, because it makes it difficult for the care team to do what you want if nobody knows," says Stephanie.

April 16 is National Health Care Decision Day, which is why Stephanie VanSlyke and Munson Medical Center are spreading the word about the Five Wishes.

"The one thing about the Five Wishes booklet is that it’s free, so you wouldn’t have to sit down and pay anyone to walk through it with you. The other thing I like about the Five Wishes is it’s personal. There are a lot of questions in there to how you would want to feel, how you would want people to care if you are at end of life,” says Stephanie.

The book is filled with questions that aren’t always easy to answer. The discussions can be painful, but they’re invaluable to those who love you.

"I’ve seen families ripped apart. When you’re in a difficult situation, where there is a lot of emotion and you’re in a position where there is a lot of emotion and perhaps something tragic has happened. The emotions take over, and in those times when you are sad and in shock and wondering if you are going to lose mom or dad in that moment, somebody isn’t saying, ‘Well, what would Mom want?’,” explains Stephanie.

Jim is confident that he and his family are prepared.

"This is one of those things that you know is important, and I think once you get it done you can breathe easier, you can file it away. Then you know you’ve done as much as you can do in that area and you can focus on other things," says Jim.

And this is not a one-time thing. Families should update their advance directive about every ten years or so as lives and values change.

There are several workshops to help people fill out their Five Wishes scheduled through the month.

You can find that information here.

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