Throughout the year we educate the community by stressing the importance of advance care planning. April is National Healthcare Decisions Month where we place additional emphasis on the importance of talking charge of one’s health care wishes by putting the necessary documents in place and by having those important conversations with our loved ones and agent/health care proxy. We stress that the best time to make an advance care plan is early, not in a time of crisis. Regardless of your age or current state of health, it’s important to create your plan because the future is uncertain, and anything can happen at any time.
This year we find ourselves in a worldwide crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we do advance care planning, particularly for high-risk patient populations.
Making your health care wishes known
According to the Kaiser Report, 2017, “only about a quarter (27 percent) of U.S. adults say they have their end-of-life wishes for medical treatment in a written document.” “Over half (56 percent) of U.S. adults say they’ve had a serious conversation with a spouse, parent, child, or any other loved one about their own wishes for end-of-life medical care.”
“Just one in nine (11 percent) say they’ve ever had such a conversation with a doctor or other health care provider.”
“While few report having conversations with health care providers about their own wishes for end-of-life care, lack of comfort in discussing these issues with doctors does not seem to be a major barrier. The vast majority (92 percent) say they would be at least somewhat comfortable talking with a doctor or health care provider about their end-of-life medical wishes, including two-thirds (66 percent) who say they’d be very comfortable.”
Studies show that advance care planning can reduce hospitalizations by as much as 26%, reduce health care costs, increase community-based palliative care and hospice utilization, as well as significantly increase the likelihood that care will be delivered in accordance with the patient’s wishes.
If you have not chosen a health care agent, it is essential that you do so and document this on the appropriate form (varies from state to state). It is imperative that you understand more about your health, illness and treatments options, that you discuss your goals, priorities and preferences with your agent/proxy, loved ones and health care provider.
At a time when we feel such a lack of control, we have an opportunity to take control by being prepared.
More planning resources
On April 14, I’ll be conducting a free one-hour community webinar via the Care Dimensions Learning Institute, “Making Decisions When it Matters Most: Conversations about Health Care Proxy, Five Wishes and More.” [Space is limited to 100 participants, so sign up now.]
Reach out to reputable sites/resources and get started today! Visit https://www.caredimensions.org/where-do-i-start/planning-ahead/, which includes links to several planning tools. In addition, see:
COVID-19 Decision Making Tool from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
About the author
Mary Crowe, LICSW, ACHP-SW, C.D.S., is director of professional and community education for Care Dimensions.