Thursday, September 1, 2011

September is Sepsis Awareness Month

Infections - we all get them. We may get a cut on our leg that we didn't clean out properly or we may develop a urinary tract infection or even influenza. We may have surgery that has complications or develop a disease like cancer, that leaves us prone to getting infections. However we get the infection, be it viral, bacterial or fungal, there's always the chance that our body will overreact and we develop sepsis.

But what is sepsis? According to Sepsis Alliance, it's the body's toxic response to an infection. In other words, as your body tries to fight the infection, it goes into overdrive and ends up trying to kill you. Some people call it blood poisoning, but that isn't a good word for it because it doesn't accurately describe what is going on.

Once sepsis sets in, your body's organs begin to shut down and eventually, it may cause death. If not death, you could end up having a limb - or several - amputated in order to save your life.

Right now, every 1.75 seconds, someone in the world is diagnosed with severe sepsis. Many more are developing sepsis. In the United States, every 2.5 minutes, someone dies of sepsis. Thousands more are left with life-altering after effects.

September is Sepsis Awareness Month. Please take a few minutes to learn about sepsis and to spread the word. It may be a cliche, but the life you save may be your own.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Are Advanced Directives?

Death isn’t usually a topic that someone thinks about on a regular basis, but it is one of the realities of life. When the subject does come up, most people think about funerals, burials, reading of wills, and the many tasks that come after a death. But, how many people know – and have put down on paper – how they would like to be cared for in the period before they die if they aren’t able to make such decisions on their own?

Putting Your Wishes in Writing

Living longer

As we all age and as doctors are able to cure more diseases, we in the Western world aren’t dying as young. We are living longer, sometimes with chronic or fatal diseases. This puts us in a position where we may be alive but may not be mentally capable of deciding on what sort of care we should be receiving.

Loved ones may have to choose for us, often leaving them with many questions about if this is really what we would have wanted.

Advance directives

Advance directives are important documents that can save much heart ache. These documents can ensure that you get the care that you want and expect, and that you can be allowed to die in peace and dignity when the time comes.

Advance directives take the burden off of your loved ones who may be stressed and unwilling – or unable – to make these important decisions for you.

Also called living wills or DNR orders

Advance directives are sometimes called living wills or DNR (do not resuscitate) orders. In some places, they may be called a power of attorney. That term, though, differs in different parts of the country and may not mean the same thing where you are. This is important because if you believe that you have a legal document and it is not considered legal in your area, your wishes may not be carried out.

To be sure that your document is legal and actionable in your state or province, it’s best to go to a lawyer and make sure it meets all the requirements of your state or province. Medical and legal people want to be sure that you have made these decisions while you are of sound mind, that what is written is truly what you want, you understand what is written, and that the decisions that you are making are truly your own.

What to include in your advance directive

When considering your advance directives, you will need to be as direct and explicit as possible. Do you want to be fed by a tube if you can’t eat yourself? Do you want to be kept on a respirator if you can’t breathe on your own? Do you want invasive diagnostic tests done if you fall further ill? Do you blood transfusions? How far do you want people to go to keep you alive? And when do you want them to let go? You may even include information about organ and/or tissue donation.

Make other people aware

Once you have made your advance directives, make sure that the important people in your life have a copy. The document won’t be of any use if no-one knows about it or don’t have access to it. Don’t keep it in your safety deposit box, for example. You can give copies to family members, your doctor or friends. You can even keep one in your wallet so you have it with you in case of emergency.

Review your choices regularly

After the advance directive has been arranged, be sure to review them regularly. Situations change and people change; how you feel when you write the initial document may not be the same as a year later. Your final will is a very important document – and so is your living will.