NY Connects is Chautauqua County's free help line designed to be a single point of entry to assist anyone who is living with a chronic health problem, living well needs and planning information needs.
Family members, health care providers, seniors, clergy, neighbors, and caregivers at home all are invited and encouraged to call NY Connects to discuss your needs and explore what community services you may be eligible for or can participate in, from Tai Chi exercise classes to HEAP heat and energy assistance programs, caregiver support services and personal emergency alarms to health insurance counseling - NY Connects will connect you with the information you need to assist you and your loved ones in Chautauqua County.
Chautauqua County Health Network has put together a convenient packet called a life file. The life file contains a health care proxy form, a Chautauqua County Health Network health care proxy registry information flyer, a medication sheet, a Sharing Your Wishes planning guide and a Sharing Your Wishes health care proxy conversation card. It also is equipped with a magnetic back so that you can position it on the front of your refrigerator.
A health care proxy or health agent is a person who has the legal authority in New York state to make health decisions for you if you are no longer able to do this yourself. You may also identify an alternate agent or health care proxy if your first choice is not available or able to serve you in this role. Being a health care proxy does not mean that you are responsible for cost of the care provided. A health care proxy must be 18 years of age or older. The health care proxy cannot be your physician or an employee of your health care provider responsible for your care, unless he or she is a family member.
Assuming the role of a health care proxy agent, or alternate, means that in certain circumstances you may be asked to make health care decisions and have access to medical information and records to assist you in making decisions for the patient you are a health care proxy for. You may have to decide to allow treatment or withhold treatment which can include tests, treatments and surgery if indicated. Usually a health care proxy goes into effect when a patient is considered unable to make decisions for themselves. This is done by physicians. You will be a health care proxy until the patient is able again to make decisions for themselves or the death of that patient.
You can see that this is a big responsibility, and it is important that when someone chooses a health care proxy they speak with them in depth regarding their end-of-life wishes so that the health care proxy can be aware of what the patient wants. You are the spokesperson for that patient and their advocate. The more you know and have regular conversations together, the better. This will make the role of the health care proxy job easier.
The most important thing you can do is to plan ahead. Marion Somers stated: "The end of life will happen to all of us, and my concept is if you fail to plan, you're planning to fail." This is a conversation we all should have with ourselves and with our family and loved ones. When the health crisis has hit, it is too difficult to rise above and try to find a solution. Plan ahead so you can receive the care that is important to you and matches your wishes. Help your family and friends and especially your designated health care proxy understand your wishes. This will help them identify what you would want and save them from the tough choices when you no longer can make choices for yourself. This will give you both peace of mind.
Take stock of your health and your family's health history, and plan to live your life well. Engage in exercise regularly, have regular medical checkups, change unhealthy behaviors and add new healthy activities to your life. In addition, talk to someone about long-term care insurance, pre-planning end-of-life needs, talk about health care proxy and power of attorney so that when an unfortunate event happens you have given the tools to your loved ones to carry out your wishes and assist you as they can to keep you in the best care setting you can be in. It is not easy to talk about how you want to live the last phases of your life. But, avoiding the conversation may actually make it harder for those you love.
The life file has a planning guide that can walk you through the steps and help you start the conversation with a family or friend.
NY Connects can direct you to information regarding health care proxy as well as community-based support services that you may be eligible for. Plan early and look to purchase additional long-term care health insurance coverage in your 40s and 50s when it is the most affordable. It may be the difference whether you live your golden years at home or somewhere else.
Once you have decided on a health care proxy, make sure your doctor and others are aware of this and provide copies to your health care proxy agent, your doctor ... maybe even your clergy. Keep this important document in a safe place that is also accessible if needed in an emergency. This is why the life file has magnets for your fridge and includes the medication list for emergencies. There is also a Chautauqua County Health Network data base. This a secure data base that you can send a copy to, and this information will be available to 911, emergency care providers and emergency-room physicians as well.
The NY Connects telephone help line is brought to you locally by a partnership between the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging and the Chautauqua County Department of Social Services. It is available to all at no cost with no restrictions of age or abilities. Call NY Connects with your questions or planning needs, and we can connect you with valuable information to help you plan for future needs. You can access this service by phone: Mayville 753-4582, Dunkirk 363-4582, and Jamestown 661-7582. Also available is email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or drop in for a face-to-face in Mayville at 7 N. Erie St. in the HRC building at the county offices. The fax number is 753-4477.