It is the discussion that no-one ever really wants to have, but the reality is, it is far better to know and follow someone’s wishes when it comes to a serious medical situation, which involves making resuscitation decisions about your elderly loved ones.
What is a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order?
This is a legally written order, indicating that a person does not want to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if that person’s heart stops beating. Sometimes it also prevents other emergency medical interventions that require life-sustaining equipment.
Australians must adhere to various guidelines for issuing a DNR Order, these have the aim of supporting health providers, patients and their families during this process. The guidelines emphasise the importance of open communication between the relevant parties.
Measures will then be provided to promote comfort during the dying process.
Who decides a DNR Order?
A DNR Order must be issued in consultation with the patient, their guardian or agent, if applicable, and senior medical and nursing staff. Doctors play a critical role in assessing the validity and in the provision of or withholding of resuscitation treatment, in nearly all situations.
How do you make a DNR request?
Legislation in some States allows for an individual to make an advance health directive (DNR), including Victoria. This informs your Doctor what sort of care you would like if you become unable to make medical decisions. For an advanced health care directive to be recognised, the following directives must have been adhered to and stand up legally:
- The patient was in a sound decision-making capacity when it was written.
- The document is current and relates to the current medical problem.
- The patient was not influenced by anyone when the document was written.
- The document includes specific details about treatments the patient would accept or refuse.
You are best to have this checked by, and keep a copy with, your solicitor. You can obtain an advance care directive form from your Doctor or hospital.
Starting a conversation such as this earlier, rather than later, allows people time to think about what they want, as well as discuss options with their family. In the case of a dementia diagnosis, it should be done as soon as possible to allow the person concerned to make choices about their long term care. Dignity is a key issue and having a DNR Order can allow a person to exercise control over their care, when they are no longer in the position of being able to do that. If open communication takes place, this ensures a decision is understood and conveyed with a mutual consensus being reached, by those family members or carers that need to be involved in the decision making process.
The DNR document remains the patient’s property, and should therefore be taken with them or their carer, when they visit any medical practice or hospital, to ensure clear communication to all healthcare professionals.
Many of our residents have a DNR Order, held by their Solicitor and family members, or have at least facilitated that conversation with their loved ones.
If you would like to know more about our homes, please contact us on (03) 9559 0400 or contact us here.