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Lee Memorial Health System offering free advanced directives session

By Staff | Apr 13, 2016

Lee Memorial Health System is holding a free informational and educational session this Friday to help individuals fill out two very important documents concerning advanced care planning, which is crucial for all ages.

Deborah Whitehair, licensed clinical social worker with the Palliative Care Program, said with Lee Memorial Health System really trying to promote completion of advanced (healthcare) directives, information and education sessions, free of charge, are being held for their staff and the general public. She said they are starting to hold the event twice a year, one every six months.

In observance of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Lee Memorial Health Systems is holding the next session from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and again from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, April 15, at each of the Lee Memorial Health System’s campuses – HealthPark Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital, Cape Coral Hospital and Gulf Coast Medical Center.

“The event is National Healthcare Decision Day, which is April 16, to get our citizens across the nation to sign up with their own directives and our own care if we should become really sick,” Whitehair said.

The event will provide attendees with the opportunity to fill out two documents, as well as obtain counseling if help is needed, all free of charge.

“At all four of our hospitals people will be there to help them,” Whitehair said.

The healthcare surrogate form allows individuals with the opportunity to appoint the person they choose to make medical decisions for care if they become incapacitated, either temporary, or permanently. The living will form, which is more specific as to what types of treatments they want, or do not want if the physician says there is limited probability of recovery from a serious life threatening event, is the second document.

“We are promoting it with our own hospital staff,” Whitehair said. “Anyone over the age of 18, who is clear thinking, I believe should have one, and can have one. Car accidents happen. We think we are immortal and we are not.”

According to Lee Memorial Health System, “roughly 70 percent of us will be unable to make decisions for ourselves at some point.”

She said if someone cannot make the event, they can stop by any one of the hospital’s front, volunteer desk within the front entry way, and ask for the two documents. The documents are also available at www.leememorial.org.

“The Palliative Care teams at all the hospitals are always willing to provide council if we get a phone call,” Whitehair said.

She said they really believe in the healthcare directives documents.

“We see very sick people and families that are left out thinking ‘what do we do, what do they want'” Whitehair said. “It’s better to have the conversation in person before, as well as fill out the documents.”

Once the documents are filled out, she said, a copy should always be given to the surrogate and a primary care physician. She said if someone comes into the hospital, they should certainly bring the documents with them.

Whitehair said it is also a good idea to put the documents in the glove box of the car when traveling.

“Since we have a large snowbird population and different states call the documents certain things,” it’s important to always have them with you, she said. “If they are in the safe deposit box and we don’t know who to call, it’s like not having it at all and the state appoints who will make those decisions and it may not be who you want.”