Medical power of attorney, this isn't something I'd heard about before, however it's something I would urge you all to learn about and to set in place to ensure your loved ones wishes are taken into account should the shit hit the fan and they lose their own ability to voice their wishes in hospital.
Having a loved one in hospital is hard enough, however as their nearest and dearest and probably their next of kin, you will want to ensure their wishes are adhered to if they become unable to communicate these themselves.
This is a situation we recently found ourselves in and we wanted to share to help ensure others don't have to face this in difficult times.
As you know my Mother-in-Law Anne had terminal Cancer. What you won't have known is she hated hospitals, even before all her treatments began. She would do everything to avoid being kept in and we all knew this. She stayed in only when she desperately had to. She has always wanted treatments and caring for in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by family not strangers.
After a family holiday this month Anne needed to be rushed to hospital, unsure what was wrong but knowing whatever it was needed urgent attention.
Her Husband and Sons were asked about resuscitation and whether they would agree to brain surgery if needed. Anne was so frail and poorly from all her previous treatments that it was agreed that surgery wasn't feasibly an option and as next of kin they signed the DNR forms.
Now, as you can well imagine, this is a horrible situation for any family to be in, however Anne's wishes and welfare were foremost in the heart of all family members.
The hospital performed a CT scan and determined a big bleed on the brain. They wanted to do a MRI, which they were to do the following day, so she stayed in another night, with Paul staying in the room over night for a second night to help calm her fears and ensure she wasn't alone.
This didn't happen the following day and she was becoming more and more distressed. She wanted to be at home, the family wanted her at home and even arranged to have the MRI done privately so she could come home and not spend another day/night and longer where she didn't want to be.
This is where the problems started, by this time Anne was now unable to communicate these wishes when the consultants were in the room, as she was only really awake for minutes at a time, so would be asleep when they visited and confused if they tried waking her.
Although her family was able to sign the DNR forms and make those decisions, they weren't able to take her home and to discharge her themselves.
Her Macmillan nurse told the doctors/consultant that Anne would definitely want to be at home, however the hospital then expressed concerns that Anne was a vulnerable adult and wouldn't listen to the Macmillan nurse.
The hospital are actually able to make your loved one a ward of court if they disagree with your decisions. As a family they just wanted her wishes adhered to and were completely stuck, as, if they pushed too hard, the hospital can actually take you to court and then you won't be able to see your nearest and dearest when they desperately need you the most.
This is why having a medical power of attorney set up is what we urge you all to do!
It's a legally binding document drawn up by a solicitor, or which you can do via the www.gov.uk site, which gives your voice to a loved one in hospital should you lose the ability to communicate your wishes yourself.
With this in place you can discharge a loved one to spend their final journey at home with the family, if this it what you know they want. You can ensure their voice is heard when they have lost the ability to express it themselves.
Luckily for us in the end, Anne's Oncologist was finishing his clinic for the day and came to see the family. They told him that the consultant wanted to keep her in to do the MRI, however the Oncologist disagreed as even if they did this the outcome couldn't be changed and would make no difference, operating wasn't an option as she was too frail for the procedure. Making her comfortable was all they could do and he agreed she would be happier at home.
We don't want anyone else to have to fight like this in what is already the hardest of times.
Please do consider having a document drawn up giving medical power of attorney to a loved one and urge your nearest and dearest to do the same. It may seem unnecessary just now and hopefully you will never be put in this position, however you never know what tomorrow brings and won't want this fight on your hands when your time and energy will be needed elsewhere caring for your nearest and dearest.
I've not looked into how much this costs elsewhere but via the above link it costs £110. It can take up to 10 weeks for the documents to all come through and you are able to nominate a single person or multiple people over the age of 18, who can jointly make the medical decisions on your behalf. (discounts are available if you're in receipt of certain benefits)