A handsome young paramedic heard me speak about Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) for the elderly. At the end, he approached me to say “This topic really hits home. One time I was doing CPR on an elderly woman in her home. Her husband put his hands on my hands gently and looked me in the eye. He said quietly ‘Please. Stop.’ I paused and recognized something I had never let creep into my consciousness. It was the first time I knew I wasn’t everyone’s hero.”
The problem of unwanted and unwarranted CPR in the elderly and infirm is of deep concern. These are the people for whom CPR is unlikely to do anything short of assuring a far messier death. Frankly, CPR is most effective on younger, healthier people who experience a sudden death – the “Healthy Dead”.
At age 65, I personally am not ready to say “No CPR”. Although healthy and active I would most likely not make it. But for this year I would give CPR a chance to bring me back to life. Add a serious disease, or add a decade to my age and I will rethink my CPR decision. I need to revisit the idea and do an honest health check at the time. So should you.
Informed decision making about CPR requires talking about this topic in honest terms. We need to be knowledgable about resuscitation. Decision making is your right. But, CPR never promised us immortality.
There must be improved communication between first responders and the public to eliminate this aggressive treatment when it is unwanted. There isn’t a First Responder who hasn’t done CPR in untold numbers of hopeless situations. We put far too many frail and sick elderly in the ICU on life support because no one made any decision about CPR, or no clue CPR was unwanted was available to the Emergency Medical Provider.
Colorado Statutes support the use of a No CPR bracelet. If you want to avoid CPR, add a bracelet to your wardrobe. Wear it on your ankle, under your socks or on your wrist. A necklace will do as well. You should customize it.
Here is the best verbiage to use in Colorado:
Colorado Directive: No CPR Name Date of Birth