The DNR Conversation

Like many people, especially those with loved ones in independent or assisted living communities, I was stunned when I first heard the story of Ms. Bayless, the 87-year-old resident of Glenwood Gardens independent living facility.  As you probably know, Ms. Bayless collapsed and an employee of Glenwood Gardens called 911 but would not perform CPR as instructed by the 911 operator.  This very private matter for the family of Ms. Bayless quickly became national news.  And, days after this incident took place, we now know that Ms. Bayless passed away from a stroke, her family was satisfied with her care, is not suing Glenwood Gardens and no charges will be filed.

I knew this story would be a hot topic with my dad and his friends in assisted living.  And, sure enough after the story broke, my dad and I discussed what would happen if an emergency like this took place.  Specifically…

  • Is someone on the staff authorized to perform CPR?
  • Who would do it…the Nursing Director, nurse or med tech?
  • What is the DNR form?
  • How would the staff know who has a signed DNR form?

Yes, you read that right…what is the DNR form?  Your see when we were getting my dads legal documents in order we “casually” discussed the DNR form but since he is of sound mind and in good health for someone his age, it seemed unnecessary to dwell on the form.  Putting off the DNR talk must be how parents feel about postponing the “birds and the bees” conversation.  If you don’t talk about it, it won’t happen.  If anything good has come of this sad situation, it is that questions on what would happen in an emergency are discussed, planned for and hopefully better prepared for.

This is just the start of our CPR and DNR conversations but I feel the weight of the world taken off my shoulders.  I wish you luck in navigating these difficult subjects. And, if you live in California, this website will help answer questions about the DNR form California Emergency Medical Services Authority.  I learned a great deal at this site, for example there is a medallion that can be worn to identify if you have a signed DNR, you can reverse a DNR by destroying the document and contacting your doctor and family and different states have different DNR policies.

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