Julia Adams, LSW
Director of Social Services
Arlington Court Skilled Nursing & Rehab
Code Status: A Difficult but Necessary Conversation
Code status can be a very difficult topic to discuss when it comes to our loved ones. However, taking the time to have these discussions and making a plan for the future can ensure that the wishes of family members are being followed. Typically a person signs a document stating what they would like their code status to be. This ensures they receive the type of medical care they want in the event they are unable to inform someone of their wishes. In a sense, a person’s code status provides guidelines for the care a person would like to receive from medical providers. There are three main types of code statuses. Each one encompasses different levels of care and treatment. When talking about code status with loved ones, it is important that everyone has the correct information. This allows them to choose their code status properly.
The first type of code status is a Full Code. Full Code means a person would like everything medically possible done to save their life or keep them alive. This code encompasses anything considered to be “life-sustaining treatment”. This includes, but is not limited to, intubation, operations, medical procedures and even being sent out to the hospital. A person who is a Full Code would like every medical treatment possible done to keep them alive.
The second type of code status is Do Not Resuscitate-Comfort Care (DNR-CC). DNR-CC means a person would only receive what is considered to be comfort care in the event of a medical decline. Comfort care typically means that a person would receive medications in order to keep them as comfortable as possible. These medications are usually Ativan or morphine.
The third common code status is a Do Not Resuscitate- Comfort Care Arrest (DNR-CC-A). By being a DNR-CC-A a person would be given all medical treatments deemed necessary to keep them alive, such as a Full Code status, up until the moment the person goes into cardiac arrest. To put it simply, being a DNR-CC-A means a person would like to have every medical intervention possible performed until the moment their heart stops.
Discussing code status with family members and loved ones can be difficult and hard to think about. It is important these conversations occur before a reference to code status is needed. While it is hard to think about the circumstances that may occur in our loved one’s lives it is important to know their wishes and respect them. Talking about code status and making future plans for care allows patients and family members can be prepared. This eliminates future worries less about making the decision during a more difficult time.