Wheels of Justice
81 years old, diabetic and living in a small town 150 miles from family
I spent the last four days with my father in the hospital as tests were conducted to see if he’s a candidate for vascular bypass surgery for his legs. He has diabetes, congestive heart failure, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and too high this and too low that. The doctors are discussing whether to do the vascular bypass or just amputate the leg above the knee. Let me say that again: CUT OFF HIS LEG! If that happens, his freedom will evaporate. He would lose his ability to drive and get around the small town he lives in, so making sure he gets the bypass is very important.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.
My father is a physical mess, but his mind is sharp as a tack. What are we, as children of elderly parents, supposed to do with someone in this condition when they are unable to care for themselves or make proper medical decisions for themselves? My suggestion, which is what I am doing for my father, is to make sure we have the proper paperwork in place to ensure we follow their wishes as far as what they want should they become incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions at that time.
One way to ensure we follow their wishes is to have them complete an advance directive, such as a living will, a healthcare proxy, a durable power of attorney for healthcare and even a “do not resuscitate” consent if that is their wish. An advance directive is a written document the patient signs before they are unable to make their own decisions that tells others, especially the doctors and family, what they want done. They may also designate someone to make decisions for them if they can no longer do it for themselves.
They can have one or all of these advance directives, if they wish. All states have the same or similar forms or ways to help those unable to help themselves.
Anyone who signs an advance directive can change his mind later, in writing. And anyone can sign a new advance directive that changes the old one. I recommend that everyone have an advance directive and review it every year, just like a credit report. Advance directives are legally binding upon healthcare providers such as nurses, doctors and hospitals.
Take time now to find out about advance directives for your family. This will give everyone time to say what they want to happen should they become unable to make decisions for themselves. Don’t put anyone in a position of guessing what you want and having to live with the thought that they did not do what you really wanted to do. Save them the grief and guilt; fill out an advance directive today.