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By SARA ARTHURS
What would you want to happen to you if you become severely ill?
Have you told your family? Put it in writing?
In Ohio, people considered competent can make their own health care decisions. But everyone should determine who they want to speak for them if they are incapacitated, said Dr. Bill Kose, vice president of special projects at Blanchard Valley Health System. And it’s better to have that conversation before — not during — a crisis.
Kose said if a person gets a viral infection like the new coronavirus, they receive “supportive care.” This could include IV fluids, if a person was nauseated and couldn’t drink fluids, or perhaps being put on oxygen.
Things like this will help the body fare better while waiting for the immune system to attack the virus.
But some patients with COVID-19 need to be put on a ventilator, which is a machine that “breathes for you.”
People who are older, or have more health problems, are less likely to be able to successfully come off the ventilator.
Kose said patients are generally on a ventilator for about four or five days, after which point either they start to get better, or they start to get worse.
However, with COVID-19, they may need to stay on a ventilator longer.
Sometimes, when people talk about advance directives, they specify that they would not want to be put on a ventilator.
“We will follow their wishes,” but can only do so if they know what those wishes are, Kose said.
Kose said health care workers want to make sure “everybody is on the same page.”
He said having an advance directive doesn’t mean doctors won’t try to care for you. “We just want to know” what you yourself want.
And he said a key thing is determining who you want as your “health care agent” to make decisions for you if you cannot.
Ideally, you want to talk with this person and other family ahead of time, before this is needed. And recognize that that person may need to make difficult decisions, Kose said.
He recommended people get the forms online, or call the health system for more information.
Since people need to stay home, the health system asks that they do not physically come to the hospital for the forms.