Should Seniors Receive CPR?

A recent seven minute, 16 second, 911 call has spurred a nationwide debate on whether it was right to refuse to perform CPR on an elderly resident living in an independent living community.  Although the ethical decision not to resuscitate was unpopular, the senior community had the legal right not to follow the directives of the 911 dispatcher.

As our population ages, the advanced care directives are becoming very critical.  There are two sides of debate on this issue.  Many people believe that a natural death without artificial measures is the best goal.  For others, living as long as possible is the priority.  The best choice is to sit down with your loved one and a family physician and discuss all the options and to put your wishes on a legal document.

The DNR or Do Not Resuscitate is one of the advance care directives that should be addressed by seniors, family members, or caregivers.  When a DNR is in place, it instructs medical personnel not to perform life-saving CPR or other procedures to restart the heart or breathing once they have ceased.  Each state has its own laws regarding advanced directives.

What is CPR?

The C stands for Cardio:  The heart is a muscle that expands and contracts more than 60 times a minute.  The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the rest of the body.

P stands for Pulmonary:    The breath of the average person is about 15 to 25 times each minute.  For every breath that is taken, it brings oxygen into your lungs and dispels the carbon dioxide.  The lungs and heart both function automatically.

R is for resuscitate or revive.  In order to attempt to restore breathing, the technique of CPR is used to restore breathing and or the heart rhythm.

The risks of CPR for seniors

The chance of survival after CPR depends on the general health of the individual.  According to Dr. David John, former geriatrics chairman of the American College of Emergency Physicians, “If you’re a reasonably healthy and functioning older adult, there’s no reason to withhold CPR.”  However, the decision may be different for a senior with a life-limiting illness. There is no guarantee for the results of CPR.  However, it is important to understand that CPR can pose some risks. The side effects of an aggressive procedure such as CPR may include brain and organ damage, broken or cracked ribs, abdominal distention from forced air, or aspirated pneumonia.

There is no doubt that the decision not to choose CPR as a life saving measure is difficult.  The decision to refuse CPR does not mean you are giving up on good medical care.  A reputable healthcare team will continue to respect your wishes with a treatment plan that provides comfort at all times.  Read more:


About the author

I am passionate about sharing senior citizen news and resources discovered from both my profession and personal journey.

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