So You Think You Have Everything Set With Your Living Will? Think Again!

By: Scott Strachan RN, BSN

Scott StrachanScott Strachan is an RN and Administrator of Abby Services. He has also been a caregiver with Abby Services while working as a CNA. Scott attended Nursing School at Penn State University. As an RN he has worked in a variety of settings throughout the country including Med-Surg, Hospice, Palliative Care, Oncology, Ortho, Medical ICU, Surgical ICU, Neuro ICU, Cardiac Rehab, and In-Home Care. He has even worked locally at Lee Memorial Hospital, Shell Point, and other facilities.






With such varied experience, Scott has seen it all. However, he has focused on Senior Care for over the past 20 years. Because of his background in Hospice and Critical Care, Scott knows the importance of a sound Advance Directive that includes a Living Will, Power of Attorney, and (when desired) a Do Not Resuscitate order. Whenever meeting with a senior seeking In-Home Care, these are some of the key documents he always requests. One question Scott always asks, “Do you have Advance Directives?” the answer is often a resounding “Yes”. With many seniors in Lee County having multiple residences this can create challenges. That is because often their Living will was developed out of state.

Scott, as a nurse, does not profess to understand the in’s and out’s of elder law. He does know that because laws vary from state to state, many aspects of a senior’s affairs can be effected should they not have legal documents developed in the state they reside. Of particular concern are Do Not Resuscitate orders. Often seniors falsely believe these have been addressed in their Advance Directives. While that may be so in other states, that is often not the case in Florida.

Florida has a specific separate form to address a clients Do Not Resuscitate wishes. This form must be signed by a patients physician and on the proper state accepted form, which is a canary yellow document. Clients wishing to have this document honored are encouraged to have it posted in a conspicuous area like on the front door or a refrigerator.

An example Scott often likes to cite is that heaven forbid, he comes upon a patient who is unconscious. Without a clearly posted Do Not Resuscitate Order he will do what he is trained to do, which is to stabilize his patient, 911 would be called and, at that point, the whole intent and purpose of a Do Not Rescitate Order is moot. Scott says, “I don’t have time in an emergency situation to ask a spouse or family member to go search for a document” Therefore if it is not readily available it might as well not exist. If not readily available, or if not developed to Florida standards, a patients do not resuscitate wishes may not be honored.

While anyone can speak with their doctor about completing a Do Not Resuscitate Order, Scott always recommends that a patient review their Advance Directives with a knowledgable Elder Law Attorney who is familiar with what is required in our state to be sure their wishes are executed the way they intended.



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