Make Your Healthcare Decisions Now
Last updated 4/16/2019 at 7:23pm
Without hesitation, most of us will share our vacation plans with loved ones; but when it comes to end-of-life preferences, only one third of Americans will let family know how they want to be cared for in the event of a life-threatening illness, according to a study published in the July 2017 issue of the journal Health Affairs.
This means most people have not exercised their right to make decisions about their healthcare in the event they cannot speak for themselves.
National Healthcare Decisions Day on Tuesday, April 16 should be an important reminder to Central Floridians to complete an advanced directive which documents one's healthcare wishes. This document also is known as a living will.
Advance care planning involves making future healthcare decisions that include much more than deciding what care you would or would not want; it starts with expressing preferences, clarifying values, identifying health care preferences and selecting the person who you want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
There are many reasons why people don't create a living will. It's likely they are just uncomfortable talking about their death or they may be afraid that medical professionals won't try to resuscitate them if they have a heart attack. Admittedly, it's hard to determine a plan for something that happens in the future when you don't know the circumstances.
It's important to consider how having a living will help your family. They may be dealing with the shock and anxiety of your illness while having to make medical decisions. At the same time, they will be grieving about the end of your life.
If you have provided direction for them on how you want to be cared, their decisions will include your input. You can determine whether you want to be at home, whether you would want to be on a ventilator for an extended time or how much pain you would want to endure. You can even express your wish that your pet stays with you for as long as possible (and be sure to create a plan for who will care for your furry family member after you're gone).
By sharing your wishes with your family, you potentially eliminate any disagreements on your care and give them peace of mind that they are making the medical decisions you would want.
So how do you start a conversation that you know the other parties may not want to participate in? There are plenty of resources to help.
The National Health Care Decisions Day website, http://www.NHDD.org, explains what advance directives are and how you can have the conversation. Five Wishes (www.FiveWishes.org) allows you to download a living will for a nominal charge. It's written in a more conversational manner and walks you through how to document your end-of-life wishes as well as how to have the conversation with your family and anticipate questions or concerns they may raise. They even offer the document in Spanish.
It's tough to have a conversation about what care someone wants-or doesn't want-when the person is dying. But, having that conversation before an emergency arises when the loved one may not be able to speak or communicate, allows the caregiver to honor that person's wishes. Over time, having the care planning conversation gives relief to the caregiver, knowing that his loved one is getting the care that he wanted.
Tracy Robert, RN, CHPN is Executive Director of Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care's region that covers Polk, Hardee and Highland counties. Cornerstone Hospice is a leading community-owned provider of end-of-life care in Central Florida. For 34 years Cornerstone has set the standard for hospice care, serving more than 7,000 people in Lake, Sumter, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties each year.