How Do I Start Advance Care Planning?
If there was only one thing you could give to those you love most in life, what would that be? Advance care planning should be on your list of considerations. It may sound strange to say this, but many family feuds and fights could be avoided by having planned for the inevitable end.
Discussing and planning your medical future is crucial.
There’s no greater gift than deciding in advance what your goals, values, and preferences would be for your future medical care. This step will allow you to plan for unexpected consequences. It will be the last gift you can give.
What You Will Learn:
- Why do families need advance care planning?
- What are the consequences of procrastinating for advance care planning?
- Where do I start exploring care options?
Discussing and documenting your wishes, and appointing a representative to make those decisions if you cannot, is a priceless gift. But, unfortunately, family members often face the difficult position of deciding what medical course to follow for a loved one. Why? Because organized planning never happened.
Why Advance Care Planning Matters
Regardless of the outcome, agonizing over whether they made the right decisions occurs. In some cases, a family bitterly divides over what course to follow. It might be one of the most challenging discussions you’ll ever have but by far one of the most important.
It’s never too soon to appoint a representative if you can’t 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), while in New Hampshire, the label is Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA for Health Care).
We highly advise appointing a backup decision-maker if your initial contact becomes unavailable. Your HCP/POA should be someone you not only trust but someone familiar with advanced care planning.
No plan is future-proof, so we recommend an ongoing check-up of your parent’s goals, values, and preferences. It’s all about communicating what health care decisions you would like in your 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 to help facilitate the conversation. The thought process behind making these plans includes several government resources. Three of those tools are Five Wishes, The Conversation Project, and the POLST/MOLST.
The POLST (Massachusetts uses their version, the MOLST) is a tool for healthcare providers to use with their patients with one or more severe illnesses. It will ideally pass within a year if their disease is without aggressive treatment took its natural trajectory. The discussion focuses on the patient’s condition, treatment options, benefits, and alternatives. Furthermore, you’ll want to address what to expect as the disease progresses, your goals, and your values. Once the health care provider completes the form and signs it, it becomes a medical order.
Discussing your parent’s medical future may be a challenging conversation right now, but it will make decisions very clear when the need arises. In addition, participating in advance care planning will allow you and your parents to face end-of-life care with the dignity and respect you deserve.