Consider Having ‘The Conversation’ With Your Family

January 7, 2015

It can be difficult to think about end-of-life plans at any stage of life and easy to put off when we are strong, healthy and enjoying the life journey.  Yet this is precisely when we should consider our advance healthcare plans – at a time when crisis, emotional turmoil and stress don’t muddy our thinking and cloud our judgment.

Advance care planning isn’t just for the elderly.  More than one in four Americans face questions about medical treatment near the end of life, but are not capable of making those decisions.  A medical crisis, disease or severe injury can happen at any age and leave someone too ill or unable to make his or her own healthcare decisions.  Making healthcare plans for the future is an important step toward ensuring your healthcare decisions are honored and you get the medical care you would want.  Advance care planning involves learning about the types of decisions you might need to make, considering those decisions ahead of time, letting others know about your preferences, and documenting your wishes in an advance directive.   Your personal values are paramount to the process.  For some people, staying alive as long as medically possible is the most important thing.  For others, quality of life is the most crucial factor.  Start by thinking about what kinds of treatment you would or would not want in a medical emergency such as CPR, artificial nutrition, or the use of a ventilator.  Your age or current health could be a factor in the efficacy of some treatments.  It might be helpful to talk with a medical professional about the short and long-term effects of these types of emergency and/or life-prolonging interventions.   Recording your preferences in an advance directive and communicating your wishes to your family, friends, and healthcare team is the best strategy to make sure your wishes are understood and honored.

Did you know that 85% of Americans polled say they would prefer to die at home surrounded by family and lived ones?  Yet, about 75% of us actually die in a hospital or nursing home.  That’s why it is so important to talk with someone about your healthcare decisions.  Knowing your wishes can take a huge burden off family and friends in an already difficult and stressful situation.

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