Submitted by Bedford at Home
When many people hear the term “Advanced Care Planning” it is either completely foreign or is thought to be only for individuals who are “up in age” with “serious medical conditions.” Though this interpretation is valid, Advanced Care Planning is truly for us all. So what is Advanced Care Planning and how does Advanced Care Planning relate to you and your family?
Advanced Care Planning is an ongoing, systematic approach to processing and communicating your thoughts and wishes regarding your healthcare decisions. As we age and enter into different seasons in our lives, it is expected that our approaches to healthcare choices will also change. For example, it is fair to say someone who is healthy, thirty-five years old, married, and a parent of three young children would view their healthcare goals and expected outcomes much differently than someone who is 70 years old, with children who are grown, and is fighting multiple, chronic diseases, such as CHF, COPD, and Dementia. So for a moment, stop and think about what season of life you are currently in and how you view your health status. Now let’s see how Advanced Care Planning could assist you in making decisions regarding your healthcare.
Advanced Care Planning is made up of five basic steps: Think, Talk, Document, Share, and Review. You have already begun to scratch the surface of step one by thinking about where you are in your life and how you view your health status. Be sure to focus on determining what matters to you most by recalling past health care experiences, defining what “quality of life” means to you, and who you would want to make decisions for you if you were no longer able to do so. Once you have had some time to think, be sure to write down your thoughts and prepare to share your thoughts with your family, friends, and healthcare providers.
Often, individuals fail to discuss health care decisions—especially those pertaining to end of life care—because it is simply a difficult topic to approach with your loved ones. Even though the conversation is uncomfortable, it is important to remember that by having this conversation and sharing your thoughts, you will be able to empower those you love to make decisions based on your thoughts, feelings, and decisions. This conversation will instill in them the confidence needed to support your wishes; if and when they are required to do so. For a loved one, this is a great gift and a true comfort during a very difficult time. Discussing your thoughts may also in-turn give you peace in knowing how your family feels about your wishes and how they view your health status. By having Advanced Care Planning conversations with your loved ones, you begin to learn about them as well. This knowledge could be useful when making the decision on who your healthcare representative(s) would be, what types of treatments you would want to endure, and when to “draw the line in the sand” and say, “enough is enough and it’s time to focus my healthcare on remaining comfortable.”
After completing step two, it is important to put your thoughts and wishes in writing. There are many legal forms of documentation available to you. Legal documentation will make your wishes known and allow your voice to be heard even if you are unable to speak. Some examples of these documents are the Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Do Not Resuscitate Order. The Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to name the person(s) you wish to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are unable to speak/make decisions for yourself. Be sure this person understands your wishes and will be able to endure the stress of ensuring your wishes are carried out. A Living Will is a document that allows you to detail what types of care you do or do not want in the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself. A Do Not Resuscitate or DNR order is a doctor’s order that states in the event your heart stops beating and/or you stop breathing that you are to be left in peace and no attempts to restore breathing or blood circulation are to be made. These documents are grouped together and often referred to as Advanced Directives.
Once you begin making decisions and complete your Advanced Directives, step four becomes very important. Sharing your decisions and documentation is the only way you can ensure that your loved ones and healthcare providers are aware and can care for you as you have chosen to be cared for. Be sure to talk with your family and friends and provide them with the information they need to support your representative or Healthcare Power of Attorney. Share copies of your documents not only with your family but also with your physician and other healthcare providers. It is also a good idea to keep a list of all the individuals you have provided documents to. In the event your Advanced Directives change, you can use this list to provide an updated copy to those individuals or providers.
Another practical part of planning is deciding on who will care for you and where you will live if the time comes when you need assistance in day to day living. Thankfully, there are many options available in our area for assisted living and long-term care.
Many people prefer to live in their own homes as long as possible. Bedford at Home is a wonderful, locally-owned company to consider in your planning. We offer a range of services from Companion Care which may include light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, and helping out with errands to Personal Care where a patient may need additional help in areas such as bathing, toileting, and eating assistance at meal time. We also offer Surgical and Hospital Assistance and are available to provide services in your home, during a hospital stay, or at a long-term care facility. These services may be provided by Personal Care Assistants, Certified Nursing Assistants, Licensed Practical Nurses, and Registered Nurses.
Everyone has a different story and there is no right or wrong way to navigate through the planning process. As seasons change in life so does our approach to healthcare. It is important to review our healthcare decisions often, update legal documentation as needed, and discuss any changes to your thoughts and wishes with your loved ones and healthcare providers. Remember, the most important part of this process is to have the conversation. Be an advocate for yourself. Allow those you know and love the privilege to discuss your wishes with you and provide them with the clarity and confidence they need to speak for you when you are unable to speak for yourself.
If you are interested in more information about Bedford at Home, please contact us at 601-271-6004 or visit our website at bedfordathome.com.
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