Times of unexpected illness or emergency medical care for a loved one can be difficult. Not knowing their wishes is an added burden that can be avoided with a simple conversation. Advance care planning is not just about being ready for the golden years. A major medical crisis can leave a person unable to make their own healthcare decisions at any age. That’s why it’s important for people to plan now for the medical care they want in the future.
Every April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD). This is a time to highlight the importance of advance healthcare decision-making. On this day, the public is encouraged to talk to their loved ones about health and life decisions such as living wills, long-term care planning, end-of-life care and other medical wishes. NHDD is an initiative of The Conversation Project that works to provide clear, concise and consistent information on healthcare decision-making.
Although it may be a difficult discussion, having a talk about a person’s wishes is one of the easiest ways to eliminate much of the uncertainty during times of medical crisis. Initially, it may be helpful to focus on what kind of treatments are desired and what kind are not. It can also be beneficial to talk to a doctor about current health, family history and conditions that might influence future health. A doctor can assist with outlining choices before having a conversation with loved ones. Finally, a person should consider what makes life meaningful to them. For example, is quantity of life more important than quality of life or vice versa? These values are important to communicate to healthcare providers and loved ones. Other topics to consider could include:
- Immediate and future health concerns
- Personal and or religious values about medical treatment or end-of-life care
- Choice of health care proxy. This is a designated person that makes healthcare decisions on another’s behalf.
- Preferred care setting (home, nursing home, hospital or hospice)
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Ventilator use
- Artificial nutrition (tube feeding) and artificial hydration (IV or intravenous fluids)
- Comfort care. Comfort care could include managing symptoms, pain relief and spiritual and emotional counseling.
After a conversation about medical treatment desires, documents such as a durable power of attorney and an Advance Directive can add legally-binding authority to those wishes. A durable power of attorney designates the proxy or person who will have the authority to make health care decisions. An Advance Directive details a person’s preferences about medical treatments and end-of-life care. Each state has its own Advance Directive documents, but the correct forms can be obtained from a healthcare provider, an attorney, the state health department and local medical or hospital associations. The National Healthcare Decisions Day website features a variety of information for the public and healthcare providers to help make talking about medical decisions easy and productive. To learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) and advance care planning, go to: at www.NHDD.org.
At our facility, our admissions team speaks with families about preparing for their loved ones’ future medical care. Our group of compassionate professionals would be happy to speak with you or a loved one about advance care planning.