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Good advice on making wishes known

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POSTED: March 12, 2013 7:00 p.m.

I’m not sure how to write about this. The recent event that took place at an independent senior-living community in California has been a widely-discussed headline and is controversial, to say the least.  
Here is a synopsis of the event in case you have not kept up with this story. A 911 call was made by a nurse employed at Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, Calif., regarding a resident, Lorraine Bayless, who had collapsed in the dining room. The 911 dispatcher pleaded with the nurse to administer CPR or find someone who would initiate lifesaving measures, but the nurse indicated she could not perform CPR according to the facility’s policy and procedures. Furthermore, she indicated there was no one else available to help at the time. Bayless died that afternoon at the hospital.
Glenwood Gardens’ executive director defended the nurse’s lack of response, indicating she followed the policy and protocol for emergency situations at the community. This policy, however, does not apply to the adjacent assisted-living and skilled-nursing facility, where CPR is performed when needed.
Bayless’ daughter, who is a nurse, said she “was satisfied with Glenwood’s handling of the situation.”
End of story, right? I don’t think so. There’s much to consider regarding the actions — or lack of — by the staff, as well as the policy itself. In addition, the parent company of Glenwood Gardens, Brookdale Senior Living, has indicated the nurse misinterpreted the policy. The cable news networks are feasting on this story with debates about who was right and what was wrong, California law (which in itself is interesting, if not amusing) and the senior-living industry as a whole.
I feel much compassion for everyone involved in this situation. There are no easy answers when something like this happens. But there are many opinions, especially when the event is in the national spotlight. I’m keeping my opinion to myself, but I will offer what I hope is some good advice.
Remember these two words: advanced directives. On July 1, 2007, the state of Georgia came out with a new version of advanced directives for health care.  This relatively new form, using understandable and everyday language, is meant to encourage more Georgians voluntarily to execute advance directives for health care to make their wishes more clearly known. This form is the only legally recognized form in Georgia for advanced directives drawn up on or after July 1, 2007.
May I suggest that you explore the idea of developing advanced directives, which might have helped in the situation above? You can obtain the form at aging.dhs.georgia.gov/ under Publications. Please feel free to contact me if you need more assistance.  
If you already have advanced directives established prior to July 1, 2007, they should be in effect. But you may want to have an elder-care attorney review them just to be sure they can be executed in Georgia, particularly if they were drawn up in another state. Laws do differ from state to state, and senior-living regulations can be challenging to comprehend, so I also would suggest you do your homework to understand both state regulations governing senior living and policies governing the community where you live or may want to live.

DeLong is the executive director for The Suites at Station Exchange. Email him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.

 

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