Even the healthiest of individuals may face an unexpected health crisis that results in their inability to communicate their wishes for medical care.
It’s never too early to start the process of advance care planning. Anyone can make a plan. In fact, it’s encouraged.
It’s Time to Make Some Choices
As you read through this material, you will be asked to think through decisions about who you would want to designate as the person to express to express your health care wishes and what kind of medical care you would want or not want. These decisions are different for everyone because the are based on individual beliefs, values and background.
Throughout this process, if you have questions about terminology, please review the glossary. You may also have questions about particular medical procedures; please take time to know your options for care.
Choose a Health Care Agent
It is important to identify someone you trust to serve as your health care agent. A health care agent is a person chosen by a loved one, family member, or friend to make health care decisions, (including at end-of-life), the in event a person is unable to make his or her own decisions.
“It really was not that hard to complete the paperwork. Having the discussion with my wife and daughter was harder, but I am glad we did talk. I realized they really did not know what I wanted.”
– Bill S. – age 85
Reflect on Values and Beliefs
Think about what is most important to you. Take time to reflect on the important things in your life that will guide you to make decisions about health care options if you become seriously ill.
Q: Would you prefer receiving as much life-sustaining treatment as possible?
Q: Would you prefer limited medical treatment with a focus on quality of life and comfort?
These are important questions and will shape your experience if you were to face a health crisis limiting your ability to communicate (including at end-of-life).
Remember: You can always change your mind– anytime and as often as you want.
Document Your Wishes
An Advance Directive for Health Care is your oral and written instructions about your future medical care in the event you are unable to express your medical wishes. An Advance Directive may include: identification of a health care agent, a personal statement of values and goals of care, and a living will.
If you are currently managing a serious illness, you may also want to consider speaking with your health care provider about developing a POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment).
Share Your Wishes
Once you have made your decisions and completed your forms, be sure to share them with your loved ones and with your doctor, nurses, social workers and anyone who works with you on your medical and health care needs. Your well-thought out and personal plans are only effective if others know your wishes and can advocate for you when you are not able.
Including key friends and family members in your conversations may help alleviate conflict later.
Talk with Your Doctor
It is important to talk with your health care providers about the pros and cons of various life-sustaining treatment options. Sometimes not knowing what to ask your health care provider can be daunting. Visit “Know your Options” for a list of questions to consider asking your provider. Bring your Health Care Directive to your health care provider to have it placed in your medical record.
Of course, life circumstances change over time. Your goals and preferences for health care may change. Is it time for you to update your Advance Directive for Health Care?