Advance Care Planning: Now More Than Ever

Advance Care Planning: Now More Than Ever

If you could no longer make health care decisions for yourself, would you be prepared?

It’s a question nobody wants to ask, yet everybody should be able to answer. Without advance care planning and the designation of a patient advocate (or advocates), your loved ones may disagree about the course of action to follow that best reflects your personal wishes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fewer than 50% of severely or terminally ill patients have put an advance directive in place. An advance directive helps ensure the right care is provided, whether an individual experiences a brain injury, becomes incapacitated from a stroke or heart attack, or is struggling with an infectious disease.

“Advance care planning isn’t simply about old age,” said David Blauw, hospital chaplain and chair of Holland Hospital’s Healthcare Ethics Committee. “Planning responsibly for ourselves or our loved ones is an act of good stewardship. Putting an advance directive in place can potentially lift a large part of the burden from the shoulders of loved ones who wonder if they are making the correct decision for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

An advance directive is a legal document, such as a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPOA-HC). Once you’ve picked a person to be your patient advocate (with successor backups, if possible), and he or she has agreed to take on this responsibility, it’s important to talk together about your values and directives. Depending on your unique preferences and circumstances, some of the considerations to discuss with your patient advocate(s) include:

  • If you were seriously injured or would not likely recover from a health event or illness, how aggressive would you want your medical treatment to be? If you could speak for yourself, would you want your medical team to do everything possible to extend your life? Or would you prefer comfort-driven, palliative care?
  • If you were in a life-threatening circumstance, are there personal, spiritual or cultural values that would be very important for your loved ones or health care team to honor?
  • Do you have specific values or wishes about life-sustaining measures, such as CPR, renal dialysis or ventilators?
  • Are there circumstances in which you’d feel it would be right for you to be kept comfortable outside a hospital and not be admitted to an acute care setting?
  • Is there anything else important for you to express while you’re healthy and of sound mind?
  • While these conversations may happen unexpectedly or many years from now, being prepared is a gift to yourself and your loved ones.

Holland Hospital’s Healthcare Ethics Committee (616) 394-3362 can help you with health care decision-making, including filling out a DPOA-HC and appointing a patient advocate. You can also learn more about advance care planning by visiting Making Choices Michigan.

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