Hindsight is always 20/20. But I still feel utterly duped by the medical establishment for what happened to my father, Ted Hamann.
At age 73, he went into his local hospital for a routine surgical procedure. He came out of it doing as well as expected, but six hours later he was in an ambulance on a 75-mile mad dash to Boston due to a stroke.
Doctors there gave us nothing but optimistic predictions about how Dad would respond to surgery. And we felt hopeful afterwards, when he was discharged to rehab to learn to walk, talk and swallow again.
Unfortunately, he had another stroke—this one even more debilitating. Once again, we were steered toward treatment as the only logical and responsible option. We were skeptical, so at every turn we gave doctors my father’s DNR and reminded them that he wanted no extraordinary measures or aggressive treatment of any kind.
The next thing we knew, Dad had a feeding tube. He would never walk, talk or eat by mouth again. He was moved to the first of three nursing homes, where he died over a year later.
I wish that doctors and nurses had been honest from the start and had given us a realistic prognosis, taking into consideration what his quality of life would almost certainly be after the surgeries. I also wish that they had honored his wishes, which he had explicitly stated in official documents prepared years earlier with his attorney.
I felt so isolated at the time, and looked desperately for support and guidance, to no avail. I had never gone through anything like it, so I didn’t recognize the hidden messages couched in the information I was given. Had I known about Compassion & Choices, that’s where I would have turned.
You and your loved ones don’t need to go through what my father and family did. Visit the Compassion & Choices web site today to learn about their End-of-Life Consultation program, which counsels patients and loved ones as they make tough decisions, grounded always in what the patient truly wants. Many other resources are available online, including state-specific advance directives, resources to augment your directive for specific circumstances … even a dementia provision so you can specify the care you want should you suffer from advanced Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
The most important thing you can do for yourself and your family is to talk openly about your wishes and theirs—and share these thoughts with your healthcare providers. Compassion & Choices can even help you get started with those conversations: Just click here.
Today, I’m a proud supporter of Compassion & Choices. And to honor my father’s memory, I’ve signed their petition to end the nationwide epidemic of unwanted treatment that so burdened my father in his last year on earth.
Click here to join me in signing the petition to Honor Patients’ Wishes. Do it for someone you love—or for yourself.
Pippa Hamann Comfort