National Healthcare Decisions Month Focuses on the Importance of Advance Care Planning
By Dr. Nancy Swayze
Reliant Medical Group Geriatrics
Imagine for a moment that you are in an accident or a sudden illness leaves you unable to speak for yourself. Your loved one or caregiver may be faced with a difficult decision about whether to continue life-sustaining measures. How does that person know what to do?
The answer is to discuss, decide and document in advance your care plan, referred often as “advance care planning.” These are the three important steps to take to ensure your future care preferences are known and allow you to remove this burden from your family. April is National Healthcare Decisions Month – a time to educate and empower people of all ages to create their advance care plan.
According to the Conversation Project, more than 90 percent of people think it’s important to have conversations about end-of-life care with their loved ones, yet less than 30 percent have done so. Planning for major injuries, sudden illness or progressive chronic conditions may feel awkward, but timely conversations with family members can ensure your care preferences are honored and that your caregivers won’t have to guess what you might want to do.
It’s simpler than you think to get started. Remember, you can change your advance care plan at any time. Here are a few tips:
- Choose an advocate. This should be someone who knows you well, is calm in a crisis, understands your preferences, is not afraid to ask questions of care providers and will advocate on your behalf. An advocate can be a close relative or friend, but should be someone you trust to follow your wishes.
- Talk with your advocate and doctor about your future care preferences. Life experience shapes end-of-life choices. Your personal goals, fears, worries, sources of strength and comfort, critical functional abilities, alternative tradeoffs and family are key topics that are often discussed in these conversations. What are the things that give you comfort when you’re sick? When, if ever, should your advocate decide that it’s time to “let go”? And who else should they include in that decision?
- Write it down. Formalize your decisions by putting them in writing. Learn more at org. Completing Health Care Proxy and Massachusetts Orders for Life Sustaining Therapy (MOLST) forms prior to any emergency improves your medical provider’s ability to deliver medical care that reflects your goals and wishes.
- Give copies of your plan to your advocate, family members and doctors. Make sure they are aware of your goals of care, and take some time to go over these documents with them. Update and review your plan whenever your situation or preferences change. Have the documents scanned in your medical record for access and safekeeping.
I have seen firsthand the gift of peace, calm and satisfaction families experience when they know their loved ones wishes have been fulfilled at the end of life. Don’t make your family members guess what you want. Make your future care preferences known!
About Nancy Swayze, MD – Chief of Skilled Nursing Facilities
Geriatricians are doctors who specialize in the medical care of patients over the age of 65. At Reliant Medical Group, our geriatricians work inside nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing facilities) helping to provide care for our older patients. Geriatricians are experts at dealing with arthritis, osteoporosis, mobility issues, memory loss and other problems that can affect the elderly. They can also help seniors deal with the...View profile View posts by this doctor