Understandably, many of us don’t like to think about the possibility that we could be seriously injured or made to live with a serious illness that limits our ability to communicate or understand our healthcare situation.
The reality is that this exact situation happens every day in this country. People who didn’t expect to be incapacitated suddenly can’t make decisions about their health. What happens next depends on how well they’ve planned for this scenario.
Those who have completed the advance care planning process will have been able to clearly state their preferences about things like the kinds of treatment they want, the kinds of treatment they don’t want, and who they want to make decisions on their behalf. Those who haven’t taken this step instead place these decisions in the hands of distraught family members who may not reflect their wishes, or with medical professionals they’ve never met.
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. It’s an important time to step back, think about what you’d want to happen if you were in this situation, and get it all in writing.
Advance care planning is the process of documenting the kinds of care you’d like and would prefer not to receive in the event that you can’t communicate your wishes. Making these decisions before you need them means you will be able to clearly and thoughtfully think about what you want.
A great place to start is the Planning My Way resource guide. This guide breaks down the advance care planning process into simple steps to help you:
- Comprehensively think about what you would want – and not want – regarding your health. There often are many ways treatment can be approached, and some of them may be at odds with your values and desires. Additionally, you can decide who should be contacted in an emergency and the kind of care you’d like at the end of life.
- Select someone who can speak for you and make decisions on your behalf if you’re not able to anymore. This person is known as a surrogate or healthcare proxy and he or she should be someone who you know will make decisions in a way that is faithful to your wishes, even if your loved ones may not agree.
- Clearly talk with your loved ones and medical providers about your views on these issues. It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but the clarity will make things easier if the situation ever arises.
- Get it all down on paper, on tape, or on video so there’s no question about your priorities, views, and decisions. Have you ever heard the expression, “Pictures or it didn’t happen?” Much like this, if your wishes aren’t clearly documented somewhere, no one may ever know you’ve expressed them.
Although it’s a difficult topic to think about and address, not doing so can place an unfair burden on your family. All too often, well-meaning loved ones argue about what you’d want to happen, or they make decisions that reflect their current emotional state or values; not yours.
It’s easier, kinder, and more sensible to make these decisions now, long before they’re needed.
Do you or a loved one need help at home? Email firstname.lastname@example.org now to learn how we can alleviate stress and provide individuals with the highest quality of life.