We know that no one enjoys thinking about end-of-life care.
Unfortunately, a recent study found that about two out of every three Americans don’t currently have any sort of advance care plan in place.
You don’t want to have to put the burden of decision-making on your family members. You also want to be sure that your wishes are carried out if you become too ill or incapacitated to make choices about your care.
What’s the solution?
Advanced care planning.
But what is it, and how should you go about starting a conversation for yourself or a loved one?
Read on to find out.
What is Advanced Care Planning?
Before we go any further, let’s talk about what advanced care planning actually is.
In a nutshell, it’s the process of deciding what medical and personal decisions you’d like to make in the event that you become too ill or incapacitated to advocate for yourself.
This may happen over the course of the natural aging process. Or, it may be because you got into a car accident. You could become incapacitated because you suffered from a life-altering injury, stroke, or other medical situation.
Many people create an advance plan not because they don’t trust their family members to make medical decisions for them, but because they don’t want to have to put that kind of a burden on them.
Usually, you’ll discuss when you’d like to be taken off life support, what sort of treatments you would or wouldn’t be OK with, and in some cases, who you would like to be able to make medical decisions for you.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to put these wishes into writing.
However, it’s important to remember that when you create an advance care plan, it’s impossible to cover every potential medical emergency or illness.
In some cases, an advance plan can help family members and medical professionals to make the choice that most closely matches your wishes and values.
So, how can you create the kind of plan that’s right for you?
Let’s move onto discussing that next.
Creating an Advance Care Plan
When it comes to advanced care planning, the earlier that you start talking about it — for either yourself or a loved one — the better.
We know that these conversations can be incredibly emotional, and are often difficult to have.
However, it’s essential to be honest, direct, and decide exactly what you want.
1. Learn About Possible Treatments
When you’re considering advance care, you need to think about the timeline and possible treatments that might be available to you.
This is especially important if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a progressive illness.
You’ll need to be realistic about your expectations and to decide what you can and cannot live with when it comes to a treatment plan.
You’ll also need to consider your personal priorities.
Would you like to be kept alive for as long as possible, or is preserving your dignity more important to you?
Above all, remember that there are no wrong answers.
2. Think about your Values
You’ll also need to consider your personal values when it comes to potential end of life care.
If you’re not yet sure what you want, there are lots of online resources available to help you figure it out.
Ask yourself or a loved one open-ended questions.
Above all, remember that you may need to make changes to your advance care plan. This is important if your disease has begun to progress more rapidly, or if new treatment options have become available to you.
3. Designate a Decision Maker
This is often the most difficult part of advanced care planning.
However, it’s also one of the most important ones.
Whether you’re planning for yourself or for a family member, you need to think about who is the most capable of following through with what the patient wants.
This person may — and probably will — have to set their emotions aside. They’ll have to be strong enough to make tough decisions, including but not limited to removing someone from life support.
In the end, a friend or family member may not be able to do this.
You may designate a medical professional or even a lawyer to act as a decision maker.
4. Make Lots of Copies
It may sound silly to include the need to make copies here, but it’s more important than you realize.
You need to ensure that each of your family members is well-aware of your wishes and that if needed, they can access them quickly.
If you have a caregiver or an in-home health aid, they should also have a copy of your advance care plan.
The same information should be given to your usual healthcare provider, especially if you’re likely to receive care from them in the future.
Advanced Care Planning: Wrapping Up
We know that any conversation surrounding advanced care planning will likely be a difficult one.
Whether you’re trying to put a plan in motion for your own life and wishes, or for those of a loved one, it will take an enormous amount of strength.
However, the earlier you get started on these conversations, the easier they will be. Plus, you’ll be able to relax knowing that you’ve communicated your wishes.
Remember that you don’t have to care for yourself or your loved ones alone.
Spend some time on our website to learn more about in-home compassionate care.
If you need help, never hesitate to reach out to us.