Advance Directives

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If Schiavo had signed an advance directive before her illness, there would have been no question concerning her wishes, and now one local hospice is spreading awareness about the documents.

It was a case that sparked an emotional chord in all of us, parents fighting tirelessly for their daughter’s survival and a husband arguing that he was following his wife's wishes, but the tumultuous legal battles would never have started if Terry Schiavo had signed an advance directive prior to falling ill.

"It's something everyone should have, no matter what age or health situation. As a hospice it's our job to make sure forms are available to everyone," says Heidi Disch of Hospice Care of America.

Later this month, Hospice Care of America in Rockford will be holding two advance directives workshops, but what exactly is an advance directive? There are three types. Heidi Disch says durable power of attorney for health care is the most important.

"In that form you pick the person that will make decisions for you, specifics: I do want a feeding tube or I don't want a feeding tube," says Disch.

A living will is less specific. It basically asks a person if they would want life-sustaining treatment or not in the event of an incurable or irreversible injury, and a DNR is a request not to have CPR if your heart stops beating.

"Get the forms. You don't need a lawyer, you just need two witnesses. It's legal. If Terry Schiavo had one in place, this would never have happened," says Disch.

Disch says an advance directive can reduce a family’s suffering during a traumatic situation, and a person can feel confident that if they fall seriously ill their wishes will be followed.

The first advance directive workshop will be held April 21 at 7 p.m. at the New Life Bible Church in Winnebago, and then again on April 28 and 29 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Hospice Care of America, located at 483 North Mulford.