Have you ever thought about what would happen should you end up in a situation where you couldn’t make healthcare decisions for yourself? What about your loved ones? What if they were in a situation where they couldn’t express their wishes for healthcare? Who would you want to make those decisions for you? Would they know your wishes for which treatments you would or would not want?
As difficult as it may be, it’s an important conversation; Advance Care Planning. Advance Care Planning involves learning about the decisions you may have to make during a crisis or at the end of your life and then preparing a plan for how you would want healthcare decisions made for you. Whether you don’t know how to bring up the subject, you don’t want to think about a loved one, or yourself, being in a position where you couldn’t make your own decisions, or you just haven’t thought about it; planning for end-of-life can be a difficult subject. Starting the conversation though is the first step. If not addressed, a healthcare crisis could occur and you’ll find yourself unable to express your desires.
There are a few documents that are necessary for Advance Care Planning and one of them is the Advance Directive, or sometimes called a Living Will. Once you’ve started the conversation, you’ve thought about what is most important to you concerning your healthcare, and you know who you would want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you were unable to, then you need to put it down on paper. An Advance Directive is a form you would use to document all this information. To find your state’s form you can visit caringinfo.org and visit their Advance Care Planning page. You can find that information by clicking this quick link to the page. Once there, you can click on your state and find your appropriate form. These forms are free and include step-by-step instructions that help you complete your Advance Directives.
When filling out your Advance Directives you will find that there are two main parts to it. First, a section where you can record your wishes for healthcare treatments such as whether or not you want to go via ambulance to the hospital for treatment, whether or not you would be on a ventilator or other life-support, or whether or not you want to be resuscitated. This section helps you put down your wishes in writing. The second section is the place where you would appoint who will be your healthcare surrogate; who will make decisions for your healthcare if you are unable to. You will want to have a conversation with the person you choose and share with them your wishes and this document.
Completing your Advance Directive is a very important step. It gets your wishes down on paper and it becomes a legal document. Once it’s completed the final step is to give a copy to your healthcare provider and keep a copy in a safe place. If at any time you want to adjust your form, you are welcome and encouraged to. Just make sure to give your doctor all updated forms.
Benefits to completing Advance Directives
There are numerous benefits to having an Advance Directive. One main benefit is that it ensures that a person’s healthcare preferences are carried out. Family members also report less stress during crisis situations because they already know their loved one’s desires. Doctors and nurses are able to have meaningful conversations about care choices and it gives healthcare professionals time to proactively plan for those choices. Unwanted hospitalizations are avoided. And families receive comfort during the end-of-life process because they can rely on the knowledge that their loved one’s wishes were followed.
These reasons and more are enough to make anyone want to complete their own Advance Directive. The first step is to START THE CONVERSATION! If you need some help starting the conversation, Heart ‘n Home has an online resource called “Heart to Heart Conversations. You can download a copy here. The Conversation Project website also has some wonderful resources that are helpful in guiding these often difficult conversations.
Heart ‘n Home Hospice is committed to helping spread information about the benefits of Advanced Care Planning. As National Healthcare Decisions Day approaches, we encourage you to complete your own paperwork and to start the conversation with your loved ones. If you have a loved one who has a life-limiting illness or health declines due to age, we can help you find resources that will improve your quality of life. Contact us today and we can help.