A family is gathered by the bedside of a loved one who has been seriously ill, and now is likely near the end of life. Each member of the family has a different idea of what should be done and what their loved one would have wanted. That’s the point when they realize they should have planned ahead and talked about what they each would want in a medical crisis.
Heartbreaking scenes like this happen far too often.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is encouraging families to spend time when they may be gathered for the holidays, to talk about the care they would or would not want. This is particularly important if a family is coping with a serious or life-limiting illness of a loved one.
Having discussions about one’s health care wishes is part of advance care planning.
Advance care planning involves making decisions about the care you would want to receive in a medical crisis that might be the result of a serious illness or an unexpected accident. Advance care planning also involves deciding who will speak for you if you are not able to speak for yourself.
An essential part of advance care planning involves having these important conversations with your loved ones.
Advance care planning also includes:
- Deciding what types of treatment you would or would not want should you be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or faced with a serious medical crisis.
- Sharing your personal values and beliefs with your loved ones.
- Completing an advance directive to put into writing what types of treatment you would or would not want.
- Designating a person as your health care power of attorney (sometimes called a health care proxy) to speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself.
“Not only is it important for each of us to clearly make our wishes known but it is one of the most important gifts we can give to our families and loved ones,” said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. “During the holiday season, families are often gathered together and that’s the best time to have these caring conversations with one another.”
Added Schumacher, “Hospice and palliative care providers see how difficult it can be for families that have never talked about care choices and are in a crisis situation. Similarly, they see how beneficial it can be when the priorities at life’s end have been discussed and are clearly understood.”
NHPCO’s CaringInfo.org offers free state-specific advance directive forms and free information to help families talk about the care they would want. Visit caringinfo.org/planningahead.
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Watch NHPCO’s instructional video about advance care planning: