Advanced Care Planning: Make Your Health Decisions Easier
Planning for medical treatment for yourself or a loved one can be a taxing emotional task. While you might not want to think about end-of-life care or medical emergencies, Epic Care knows that making decisions now can ensure that patients get their wishes when that time comes. On National Healthcare Decisions Day — happening Saturday, April 16 — Epic Care encourages its patients to learn more about advanced care planning (ACP) and map out their own choices.
As part of advanced care planning, patients can create an advance directive. This legal document explains their preferences for medical care in the event that they cannot make their own decisions. According to ACP Decisions, this can include if they are in a coma and therefore unable to speak. This gives people a chance to think about their wishes, do research and make informed decisions with calm, clear heads — rather than putting the onus on loved ones in a time of crisis.
An advance directive consists of two parts:
- A living will: Outlines the person’s treatment preferences.
- A medical power of attorney (or durable power of attorney for health care): Names a person “who will speak for your values and wishes if you cannot speak for yourself because of illness, injury or debilitation,” explained Vitas Healthcare, an end-of-life care provider.
Vitas recommends that patients appoint either a trusted relative or friend as their proxy because they usually understand the patients’ preferences and values and can capably make such decisions for them.
“Planning and making decisions about the end of your life can be a positive experience,” noted Better Health Channel. “It is a good opportunity to reflect on the important things to you and make arrangements that suit you.”
Despite letting people decide ahead of time how they want to be treated, not many people in the country have pursued advanced care planning. The Journal of American Medicine reported that less than a third of United States residents have set up an advance directive.
However, advanced care planning has numerous benefits for patients and their family members and friends. Without an advance directive, loved ones may feel burdened by making decisions for a patient during a medical emergency, even questioning whether they are doing what the patient would have wanted.
According to ACP Decisions, having plans in place, though, can enhance “families’ satisfaction with end-of-life care and understanding of what to expect. It can also improve the bereavement experience of families by reducing stress, anxiety and depression after a loved one’s death.”
“Start an ongoing conversation with [your loved one] about your end-of-life wishes to ensure that your healthcare proxy understands your current feelings and your way of thinking,” Vitas noted.
People can get specific in their advance directives, especially if they face treatment for severe conditions like cancer. Better Health suggests that patients talk to their doctors about their medical conditions and how those might progress over the years so patients know what sort of treatment and quality of life they might face. That way, patients can address aspects of care in advance directives like pain management, whether they want to use a ventilator or even where they want to live out their lives at home or in a hospice facility.
“You should also talk with those close to you, your family, your doctor and the treating team to make sure they know what is important to you,” Better Health noted.
Epic Care supports and encourages patients to engage in discussions about their wishes for care through the end of life, so those wishes can be understood and respected. To that effect, we discuss and provide information on Advanced Care Planning and also provide copies of the CA Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. This “form that gives seriously-ill patients more control over their end-of-life care, including medical treatment, extraordinary measures (such as a ventilator or feeding tube) and CPR,” CA POLST explains.
According to Better Health, everyone should review their advance directives regularly, and whenever their conditions change, keep a copy for themselves and provide copies to others.
“Even if you are in good health, you might want to consider writing an advance directive,” the AAFP said. “An accident or serious illness can happen suddenly. If you already have a signed advance directive, your wishes are more likely to be followed.”
Also, don’t worry. It isn’t set in stone. Patients change their minds about their care. They can update or even cancel their advance directive whenever they want to.
To find out more about advanced care planning and how to develop the right treatment plans for you or your loved ones, call Epic Care at (925) 255-1066 or visit epic-care.com.