Help medical workers: Prepare health care proxy, DNR forms now

To the editor:

As a medical social worker, it occurred to me that there’s a way we can all help to reduce the ongoing burden on our health care workers right now, and all it entails is filling out some paperwork. One of my responsibilities is to assist families with completing health care proxy forms when they are hospitalized. A health care proxy form asks you to decide who will make decisions for you if you can’t make decisions for yourself. No one wants to think about this possibility, but all hospitals have each patient complete a health care proxy when admitted. Many people already have this document completed, often on the advice of their attorney. If you don’t have a completed HCP form, New York State law designates your proxy for you. In the absence of a signed health care proxy, the New York State Family Health Care Decisions Act designates who can make health care decisions for you.

I think it would be wise, given the current health crisis, for all adults to have this document completed and kept someplace where they can easily locate it in case of an emergency. This is particularly true for those most at risk for contracting Covid-19. Most of us will not need it. But for those who do, it will save you having to make this decision during a health crisis, and it will relieve the doctors, nurses and social workers from needing to take time to review this paperwork with you.

Another consideration, because all patients admitted to the hospital in the state are asked to complete it, is the medical orders for life-sustaining treatment  form, also known as the DNR form. This is New York’s standard form asking individuals to decide which types of treatment they would prefer under certain circumstances. This form makes your wishes clear to your health care proxy, as well as to the hospital. The form has detailed instructions that may help you make those decisions. You might also want to consult your doctor, lawyer or a social worker. Again, preparing now will save you or your family members (who may not know your wishes) needing to make these decisions later. The form is not valid until signed by a doctor, but a doctor can sign a completed form upon admission to the hospital. In any case, it helps to have considered the questions beforehand.

Again, the vast majority of us will not need either of these documents any time soon. But they are very helpful to have in case of hospitalization. And, importantly, they will relieve our health care workers of spending precious time when they could be doing hands-on patient care.

I am happy to speak with anyone to answer questions or help guide you. I can be reached at [email protected]

Melissa Ronan

131 Manor Lane