It’s never too early to talk about advance care planning, and National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is a helpful reminder that now is the perfect time to make a plan. While it’s human nature to want to avoid thinking about unpleasant subjects, it’s important to consider what would happen if you became unable to make decisions for yourself due to an accident, incapacity or illness.
End-of-life care is something we should all think about, and while the majority of people think it’s important to discuss, only 27% of us actually start the conversation. Your healthcare provider, or a trained Advance Care Planning (ACP) facilitator can play an important role in helping you work through and document your healthcare and end-of-life wishes.
At Griffin Hospital, we believe Advance Care Planning is so critical to person-centered healthcare that during the week of April 16-22, we’re holding a “I’ve Got A Plan. Do YOU?” campaign to encourage our caregivers to speak up and tell their loved ones about their healthcare preferences and plans.
No matter your age, there are many good reasons to have an Advance Directive (AD) in place to protect you. Advance Care Planning may sound daunting, but it is a fairly straightforward process. Here are three easy steps to get you started on Advance Care Planning:
- Talk to your family, trusted friends and caregivers about what you want – and don’t want – when it comes to your future medical treatment and care.
Take some time to reflect about the care that you would want, but don’t just think about whether you want to be resuscitated if your heart stopped or you stopped breathing. Think about what outcomes would not be acceptable to you and the kind of care you want to receive.
Tell your family who you have selected as your healthcare representative(s). These are the people doctors will contact if someone needs to make medical decisions for you.
- Write down your wishes in an Advance Care Planning document.
Advance Care Planning can be an informal process, where you write down your wishes on a form or piece of paper. It can also be more formal, including having documents that are legally recognized by a lawyer or healthcare professional. An advance care plan usually has the following parts:
The legal document about your healthcare wishes is called an Advance Directive, which is often restricted to medical treatments you do and not want, such as restarting your heart if it stops. Even if you have an Advance Directive, your advance care plan may have more information about your goals of care. This will help your family and doctors understand your values and may help in a broader range of situations.
- A list of the names and contact information of who can speak on your behalf with your doctors, if you are unable
- A description of the care outcomes that would, and would not, be acceptable to you
- A description of any treatments or services that you do or do not want
- Additional wishes, such as how to keep you comfortable, preferences about wanting to die at home or in a hospital, or having your family or a pet with you
- Your signature, a witness’ signature, and the date
- Share your Advance Care Planning documents.
You should share your advance care planning documents with the people who can be contacted if the need arises.
This will help make your doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers aware that you have specific wishes about your future medical treatments or care given to you. Of course, you can also share your documents with your primary care physician, skilled nursing or assisted living facility, and other healthcare providers who are involved in your care.
Remember: Review your plan regularly, and update it whenever your wishes change. You can change or revoke your advance care plan at any time.
Griffin Hospital’s advance care planning program is called “Let’s Talk…Let’s Plan.” We offer free assistance to anyone with questions or help in starting a plan. Please contact the Advance Care Planning office at 203-732-1255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.