If there was only one thing you could give to those you love most in life, what would that be? Money? Jewels? A treasured heirloom? There is no greater gift than deciding in advance what your goals, values, and preferences would be for your future medical care. Discussing your parent’s advance care planning is crucial.

 

What You Will Learn:

Discussing and documenting your wishes, and appointing a representative to make those decisions if you cannot, is a priceless gift. Too often, family members face the awkward position of deciding what medical course to follow for a loved one because there was no advance care planning.

Why Advance Care Planning Is Needed

Then regardless of the outcome, agonizing over whether they made the right decisions occurs. Alternatively, in some cases, a family is divided over what course to follow. It might be one of the most difficult discussions you will ever have but by far one of the most important.

It is never too soon to appoint a representative to make decisions for you if you cannot voice your wishes. Everyone over the age of 18 should do so regardless of their medical status. In Massachusetts, this person is a Health Care Proxy (HCP). In New Hampshire, the official title is Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA for short).

We highly advise appointing an alternate HCP or POA if your original choice cannot make decisions for any reason. Your HCP/POA should be someone you not only trust but someone familiar with advance care planning.

Advanced care planning is an ongoing discussion regarding the goals, values, and preferences you would want in the future. It is about clarifying and communicating which health care decisions you would want to experience. Ultimately, advance care planning is about making an end-of-life care plan.

Advance Care Planning Options

As healthcare providers, our collective responsibility is to educate the patients we care for and their families. With the recent gains in public awareness, there are many tools out there to help facilitate the conversation and the thought process behind making plans for your future medical care, including your end-of-life care plan. Three of those tools are Five Wishes, The Conversation Project, and the POLST/MOLST.

The POLST (AKA the MOLST in MA) is a healthcare provider tool. It helps facilitate treatment to patients with severe illnesses and fewer than one year left to live. The discussion focuses on the patient’s disease, treatment options, benefits, and alternatives, as well as what to expect as their disease progresses. Above all, the POLST and MOLST emphasize the patient’s goals of care and their values. Once the health care provider completes the form and signs it, it becomes a medical order.

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Key Takeaways

Your parent’s advance care planning may be a challenging topic right now, but it will make decisions very clear and accessible when the time comes. Participating in advance care planning will allow you and your parents to face end-of-life care with the dignity and respect that it deserves.

 

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