Critical Conversations

You may be aware of a recent event in the news whereby a nurse at an independent living facility called 911 for a resident in apparent cardiac arrest, but then refused to initiate CPR while waiting for the paramedics to arrive. She stated that it was against facility policy for her to perform CPR or to “recruit” someone else to assist. The resident was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Perhaps this senior and her family were well aware of the policy and agreed to it. Or maybe the nurse was simply afraid of losing her job if she went against policy.  Whatever the reason, the situation brought to light the importance of knowing what you’re getting (or not getting) when you move into a particular senior living facility, and making sure that your end-of-life decisions are documented and known to those who need to know.

Most independent living facilities are no different than living on your own in an apartment. Therefore, it may be reasonable that the facility does not want to incur potential liability for initiating CPR on an “independent” senior.  And they may take no responsibility for knowing what the senior would want for end-of-life care.

Assisted living and skilled nursing facilities provide actual hands-on nursing care to varying degrees, so they typically ensure that residents have Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney on file, with more of an implicit understanding that staff will act accordingly in an emergency.

Completing, reviewing and updating advance directives is the cornerstone of any law firm practicing life care planning. So is assisting seniors in selecting appropriate senior living facilities to meet their specific needs. Initiating end-of-life discussions, choosing agents and documenting wishes are critical. So is making sure that the Medical Power of Attorney retains the original documents, and copies are provided to all healthcare providers and appropriate family members.

Apparently, this family felt their loved one received appropriate care. And that may very well be because they were aware of what “independent living” meant and had an understanding of this particular senior’s end-of-life wishes. Let’s make sure that’s true for all of us.

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