What is Advance Care Planning?
Advance Care Planning is a process for setting goals, having conversations, and planning now for the healthcare you would want if you could no longer speak for yourself. Declining health and end-of-life decisions are uncomfortable topics that most of us would rather not think about, yet they remain some of the most important decisions you can make.
- 97% of people say it’s important to put their wishes in writing.
37% have actually done it.
(Source: Kaiser Family Foundation Serious Illness in Late Life Survey, 2017)
- 21% of people say they haven’t had the conversation because they don’t want to upset their loved ones.
53% say they’d be relieved if a loved one started the conversation.
95% say they are willing or want to talk about their end-of-life wishes.
(Source: The Conversation Project National Survey, 2018)
Why is Advance Care Planning important for everyone?
Even if you are young and healthy, life can change in an instant. A sudden accident or severe illness could limit or eliminate your ability to communicate. Advance Care Planning is about having conversations with your loved ones, in advance, about what you value in life and your wishes for any future health care you would want if you were unable to speak for yourself. Rather than leaving these decisions up to others, you are able to assure that your voice is heard and your wishes are met.
Advance Care Planning in Five Steps:
- Your values and beliefs.
Taking the time to reflect on your values and beliefs first may help guide you in your future healthcare choices. Ask yourself:
- What gives my life its meaning and purpose?
- What does “quality of life” mean to me?
- What would I miss most if I couldn’t walk, talk or think normally?
- How will my decisions impact my time spent with my loved ones?
- How does my faith impact my choices?
- What will be important to me when I am dying – the location of care, physical comfort, the presence of loved ones?
- Choose a healthcare surrogate
A healthcare surrogate is a person you choose to make your healthcare decisions if you were unable to speak for yourself. Some people choose to leave these decisions to a loved one, such as a spouse, sibling or child. The person you choose will be tasked with making tough decisions during a difficult time, it’s important for you to have regular discussions with them so they can act confidently with your best interests in mind.
- Have a conversation.
Advance Care Planning can actually be a gift that you give yourself and your loved ones. By planning ahead and having conversations in advance with the people closest to you, you are ensuring your voice is heard and your loved ones, healthcare surrogate, and healthcare team can be prepared to honor your choices.Some people choose to involve their loved ones in every step of the decision-making process. Others choose to make their decisions first and then talk to their family and friends. It’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about shared decision-making with advance care planning. They know your current health as well as your history and can discuss possible needs in the future. They can provide information about tests, treatment options (including risks and potential outcomes) that may be necessary for your individual circumstances.
- Put it in writing.
After you have reviewed and discussed your choices, take the time to document them by completing an Advance Directive or Living Will. This legal form includes your exact wishes and provides instructions for the course of action that should be taken should you become incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself.As most states have their own form, click here to find the form applicable to you. Once you have completed the form, be sure to let your family know where they can find a copy. It is also recommended to keep a current Advance Directive at your primary care provider’s office in your personal medical records.
- Advance Care Planning is a journey.
Review your documents periodically to assure that your documents reflect your current preferences. Your thoughts, feelings and opinions can change over time, so can your healthcare wishes and choices, especially if your health status changes. It’s important to review any updates to your advance directive with your loved ones and your healthcare provider.