12 Apr Advance Care Planning: Give Yourself a Voice When You Can’t Speak for Yourself
April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day to name someone to speak for you when you can’t speak for yourself.
When is the right time to express the medical decisions that are important to you? When you’re in good health or when you’re in a coma?
The answer of course, is when you’re in good health.
So why are we reluctant to talk about our medical wishes in case of serious illness or end of life?
It can be difficult to think about being sick or injured to a degree that you can’t speak into your health care decisions. When you’re healthy and strong, it’s a natural human response to push away fearful thoughts of the future.
But who does it help to delay writing down your medical wishes? Unfortunately, it doesn’t help anyone. Not you, or your loved ones. This is why Advance Care Planning is so important.
“Advanced Care Planning is when you name a person you trust to respect your medical wishes in case of serious injury or end of life,” said Sandy Ulf, Advance Care Planning coordinator at Olympic Medical Center. “Thinking about your medical wishes, and then documenting and sharing them, is critical to having your wishes honored and respected.”
Starting the Conversation
“It’s about the conversation. The person who’s going to make healthcare decisions for you needs to understand how and why honoring your wishes is honoring and respecting you,” said Ulf.
For your peace of mind—and your family’s—think about what medical decisions are important to you and share them with your loved ones and physician. Then, create an Advance Care Plan to name the person you trust to respect your medical wishes in case of serious injury or end of life.
By creating a plan and sharing it with your loved ones, you give yourself and your family peace of mind that they are making the right decisions on your behalf.
Don’t Delay Advance Care Planning
Accidents or illness can happen to anybody, and you can’t always control it. But when you create a care plan before an injury or illness, you gain back some control.
“Having an Advance Care Plan means you have control of your life,” said Ulf. “You have an opportunity to think about what’s important to you and speak into your experience, even when you can’t physically speak for yourself.”
If you’re feeling hesitant or overwhelmed, Ulf recommends focusing on the big healthcare incidents that could happen to anyone. Think through what you want healthcare providers to do if your heart stops or your brain function deteriorates after an accident, and make decisions on those first.
Simply starting the conversation and getting pen to paper with an Advance Care Plan is the best step to taking back control of your healthcare during your most vulnerable moments.
After you’ve had conversations with your loved ones, decided which person is best to speak for you in a medical emergency, and written it all down in an Advance Care Plan, make sure to share the information with your physician and loved ones.
If you’ve already created an Advanced Care Plan, well done! You’ll want to revisit your plan every so often to make sure it’s up to date. The ABA Commission on Law & Aging suggests using the “7 Ds” as an easy way to remember when it’s time to update your plan. They include:
- Death of a family or friend
- New Diagnosis
- Decline in health
- Reach a new Decade
- New medical Device
- Distance or location of your decision maker changes
Whether you need to create an Advance Care Plan for the first time or need to update the one you have, let National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16th be a reminder to get started. Olympic Medical Center has resources and staff to help you through the process.