Understanding Advance Care Planning
If you were to suddenly become ill and couldn’t make decisions for yourself, who would you trust to do so on your behalf? Would they know what your wishes were? Studies show that 90 percent of Americans know that they should have conversations about end-of-life care, yet only 30 percent have done so.
Advance care planning is the process of deciding one’s own future medical care. The plan is a series of legal documents that help to ensure that if you can’t speak for yourself, your wishes can still be carried out. Advance care planning should be discussed at a regular office visit with your primary care provider before an acute illness. It is also encouraged when a person has a serious illness that is expected to get worse or before a major surgery.
“By communicating your healthcare wishes ahead of time it allows you to receive the medical care that matches your values and goals,” said Melinda Gruber, PhD, President & CEO, Caring Circle. “It also helps prevent family members from being forced to make decisions in a crisis with no guidance.”
Creating a Plan
Making an advance care plan is often done in three simple steps:
- Think about your wishes. To create an advance care plan, you should think about what kind of
medical treatment you would want if you lose the ability to communicate. Are there any situations in which you would refuse or stop treatment? Are there therapies you would want or not want? And whodo you want to make decisions for you?
- Decide on a patient advocate. This means choosing a trusted person to speak for you only when you can’t speak for yourself. When you cannot make medical decisions, your advocate makes sure the instructions in your advance care plan are followed. An advocate does not make decisions based on his or her own opinions. They must put aside those opinions and values if needed, and
carry out your wishes.
- Fill out the legal documents. There are several kinds of legal documents for advance care planning. Each one tells healthcare providers your wishes. The documents may vary by state. They must be signed and may need to be witnessed or notarized. You can cancel or change them whenever you wish. Depending on your state, the documents may include a Healthcare Proxy form, Living Will, Durable Medical Power of Attorney, Advance Directive, or others.
Still not sure where to begin?
Caring Circle offers many tools and resources available to help with advance care planning as well tips for starting and having this important conversation.
For more information, or to download a free advance directive, visit www.caring-circle.org/planyourcare or call (269) 429-7100