Healthcare experts recommend documenting advance directives long before hospitalizations

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 18:51:42-04

The coronavirus outbreak has made everyone realize how quickly health can deteriorate.

That’s why medical experts recommend thinking about, documenting, and discussing your advance directive wishes with loved ones long before you need to go to a hospital.

Jaqueline Hardges knows she’s one of the lucky COVID survivors after she recovered from a mild case at home.

Long before she got sick, Hardges started thinking about how she wanted to be cared for at the end of her life and she tried to talk to her family about it.

“They didn’t really want to have a whole lot of conversation,” said Hardges. “They were like, ‘What are you, why are we talking about this?”

End of Life decisions, or advance directives, are morbid to think about but University Hospitals Social Work Supervisor Sandy Babic helps patients work through those decision at UH.

University Hospitals on Cleveland's East Side.
University Hospitals is one of many hospitals flagged in the Lown Institute report.

She says right now, those are important conversations to have.

“Clearly, people get sick and their condition can change very quickly with this virus and so I think people have thought about it,” said Babic. “What would I really want?”

Babic says that means deciding how you want to balance quality of life with how long you live.

It’s also important to pick someone to speak for you and make decisions when you can’t.

“It should be someone you have asked so they’re in agreement with taking on this role because it’s kind of a weighty job and you should make sure they speak with your voice,” said Babic.

The Cleveland Clinic tells News 5 it’s given COVID patients an app where they can be guided through the process of documenting advance directives at home.

“We are going to use these platforms now for other chronic diseases because it was very successful, but for now it’s for COVID patients only,” said End of Life Center Medical Director Dr. Sylvia Perez-Protto.

She says that step coupled with conversations when other patients come to the Cleveland Clinic has drastically increased the number of people who now have their paperwork in order.

“I expect to have more people with documents or who have thought about all these issues because of the challenges and what we are seeing happening in the world,” said Dr. Perez-Protto.

If you want to get your advance directives in order:

  • Talk to loved ones about how you want to be cared for at the end of your life
  • Find a friend or family member that is comfortable making medical decisions for you and will carry out what you want
  • Revisit those decisions over time

If you want any help having those conversations follow these links:

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