Those who donate organs, eyes, or tissue leave a tremendous legacy, often the gift of life itself: Allowing someone a steady heartbeat. Or the vision to see a grandchild. Or healthy skin to cover a burn or cancer site.
National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16) is when everyone is encouraged to create or update their advance directive. These end-of-life documents include a section for letting family members and healthcare providers know whether you choose to be an organ donor.
You are never too old to donate. The oldest donor on record was 92! You just indicate your preferences about donation. Then talk with your family to tell them of your wishes. When the time comes, doctors will determine which organs are or are not suitable.
Cost. There is no cost to donors.
Medical care. Some people worry if they are on an organ donor list that they will not receive all the care necessary to save their life. Not true. Doctors will provide all the care you wish right up until death. That is the doctors' oath.
Open-casket funeral. The incisions are small, and funeral directors are skillful in making repairs. There is no disfigurement that would hinder an open-casket funeral.
Choose what to donate. Donors can indicate ahead of time what they wish to donate.There are 10 organs that are suitable for transplant. And donation of skin tissue can impact up to 75 lives.
How to sign up. If your loved one is interested, go to organdonor.gov, the national registry. This group matches donors and recipients and provides instructions about what to do following a death. The person you care for can also have their donor status recorded through the state Department of Motor Vehicles so it can be put on their driver's license or state ID.
Is it time to address the advance directive?
As Ben Franklin so famously noted, "death and taxes" are the only certainties in life. It's fitting, then, that tax time is also the time dedicated to raising awareness about a critical end-of-life document: The advance healthcare directive. As the North Shore and Chicago experts on family caregiving, we at Options for Aging can help you understand what you need to do to be sure your loved one has fully completed their directive. Give us a call at 847-868-1445. It's never too early to get this important task done.