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April 9, 2017

A Pretend Scenario That Could Become Very Real:

I am 61 years old. I am a member of the health club for seniors, and I come to the club once a month to have a spa treatment and meet with the nurse, who takes my vitals and asks a few questions. Sometimes I come for an exercise session and sometimes for a guest speaker or a club meeting, but mostly I just come to check in because I am single and my grown children live far away and I am comforted that the health club for seniors ‘has my medical back’. I have a signed and notarized Optional Request for Diagnosis of Dementia Sequence Initiation so my family will know how I would like to be cared for if I ever get dementia.

Imagine we have fast forwarded 10 years. Now I am 71, and one day I come to the club with blueberry jam on the chest area of my pink t-shirt (looks like I was eating jam and toast and the jam fell off my toast and onto my shirt). The nurse and one of the other staff persons notices and offers to help me clean it off, but of course, it is blueberry, so it leaves a stain.

Two days later, I come back to the club and I still have on the same t-shirt with the blueberry stain. Now, this is also odd because in the past I have only come to the club once a month.  So the staff nurse says, “DG, did you drive that cool ’56 Chevy you have today?”, “Can we go out and look at it?” . I am happy to show off my pride and joy, but the staff nurse is surprised to see that it is dirty and there are several new dings and dents on the paint job. So the staff nurse decides to invite me to play a game, a puzzle, called a Mini Mental Exam. I don’t do well at it at all. So the staff nurse calls my primary care physician and makes an appointment. An Aging With Grace staff person drives me to my appointment and stays with me there as an advocate. I receive a diagnosis of mid-stage Alzheimer’s Disease. This diagnosis “turns on” that Optional Request for Diagnosis of Dementia Sequence Initiation I signed years ago when I first became a member of the health club for seniors. Hopefully, I have updated my wishes for my plan of care if my wishes changed over the years.

I know that the pretend scenario described above can become very real because dementia struck both of my grandmothers. They did not have a plan of care prepared. The memories of their last years still makes me sad.

Did you know that the HIPAA forbids disclosure of your personal health information to family members without your consent? Be sure to sign a form giving your physician and other health care providers permission to share with other family members if you want them to be able to help you with health concerns. And there are many other legal documents that you need to learn about so your care goes the way you would like it to go if you are ever in a health situation where your voice cannot be heard.

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