There’s a way for your loved ones and your healthcare team to understand, respect, and honor your wishes. There’s a way to unburden loved ones from wondering if you would want a certain medical treatment, if you could not communicate yourself. There’s a way for you to be at the center of your health plan.
Advance Care Planning can empower you to receive the type of medical care you want. So here are the 3 most important things you need to know about Advance Care Planning!
1.What is Advance Care Planning?
Advance Care Planning is an ongoing conversation about the type of medical care you want as you age or if you were to get sick. It involves identifying what matters most to you, learning about life sustaining interventions such as CPR, a breathing tube, a feeding tube, and sharing your preferences with the important people in your life, including your medical team. You are never too young, too old, too healthy, or too sick to start these conversations.
Developing an Advance Care Plan can make people feel anxious, nervous, inspired, or empowered. The goal of advance care planning is to help you gain control over an often uncontrollable situation.
2. What are Advance Directives?
Advance Care Planning also includes legal documentation of your preferences through “Advance Care Directives” such as a Healthcare Proxy and a Living Will. A healthcare proxy, also known as a healthcare surrogate or durable medical power of attorney, is the person you appoint to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you were unable to speak for yourself. A Living Will enables you to decide on the medical interventions you want or don’t want near the end of life – such as decisions about CPR, a breathing tube, a feeding, and organ donation.
Each state has its own Advance Care Directive Forms. In some states the Healthcare Proxy and Living Will are combined into one form, in other states they are two different forms. You can find your state’s advance directives form here.
Importantly, your wishes are not setin stone. They can change over time and for most people they do. As your wishes change, make sure to keep keep your loved ones, your medical team, and your Advance Directives up-to-date.
3. Why is Advance Care Planning important?
Your medical team will ask you about your care as long as you are able to communicate. If you were too sick or too confused to speak for yourself, Advance Care Planning would be the primary way in which you communicate your wishes to your loved ones and to your healthcare team.
For example, if you had a bad pneumonia and you were too sick to speak for yourself, your medical team would ask your healthcare proxy to speak on your behalf about the type of medical care you would want. Having planned in advance of a medical crisis also makes it so that your loved ones will know what you want and they will not be put in the impossible position of making medical decisions on your behalf without actually knowing what you would have wanted.
One easy way to get started is to try our free 7-Day Advance Care Planning Challenge. We walk you through the 7 steps of creating an Advance Care Plan in an easily digestible and approachable way. Go at your own pace, and when you’re done connect with us on Facebook or Instagram and tell us how it felt to complete the challenge!
Tell us how you felt after taking the 7-Day Advance Care Planning Challenge! Share in the comments below.
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Start the Conversation
Advance Care Planning conversations can be hard and often lead to more questions. For more personalized guidance to help you answer your questions, sign up for coaching and together we can create an Advance Care Plan tailored to you!
Ashwini Bapat, M.D. is a palliative care doctor, coach, and co-Founder of EpioneMD. She completed her Internal Medicine residency and Hospice & Palliative Medicine fellowship at Yale-New Haven Hospital and then worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She loves using her insider knowledge to empower you to get the most out of your healthcare.