If there was only one thing that you could give to those you love most in life, what would that be? Money? Jewels? A treasured heirloom? It seems there is no greater gift than deciding in advance what your goals, values, and preferences would be for your future medical care.  Having a discussion about your parent’s advance care planning is crucial

What You Will Learn:

  • Why advance care planning is needed
  • What can happen without it
  • Where to start exploring options

Discussing and documenting your wishes, and appointing a representative to make those decisions in the event that you cannot, is a priceless gift. Too many times family members are left in the difficult position of deciding what medical course to follow for a loved one because there was no advance care planning.

Why Advance Care Planning Is Needed

Then regardless of the outcome, agonizing over whether they made the right decisions occurs.  Or in some cases, a family is divided over what course to follow. It might be one of the most difficult discussions you will ever have, but by far one of the most important.

It is never too soon to appoint a representative to make decisions for you in the event that you cannot voice your wishes. In fact, everyone over the age of 18 should do so regardless of their medical status. In the state of Massachusetts this person appointed is referred to as a Health Care Proxy (HCP) and in the state of New Hampshire they are referred to as a Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA for Health Care).

It is highly advised that an alternate is also appointed in the event that the person originally appointed cannot make decisions, whatever the reason. Your HCP/POA should be someone you not only trust, but some with whom you have done advance care planning.

Advanced care planning is an ongoing process of discussions regarding one’s goals, values, and preferences as they relate to medical care you would want in the future. It is about clarifying and communicating what health care decisions you would want made for you, ultimately it is about making an end-of-life care plan.

Advance Care Planning Options

As healthcare providers it’s our collaborative responsibility to educate the patients we care for and their families; and with the recent gains in public awareness there are many tools out there to help facilitate not only the conversation but the thought process behind making plans for your future medical care including your end-of-life care plan. Three of those tools are Five Wishes, The Conversation Project, and the POLST/MOLST.

The POLST (Massachusetts uses their own version, the MOLST) is a tool for the health care provider to use with their patients that have one or more serious illnesses and would be expected to pass within a year if their disease without aggressive treatment took it’s natural trajectory. The discussion focuses on the patient’s disease, treatment options including benefits and alternatives, and what to expect as the disease progresses; the patient’s goals of care and their values. Once the health care provider completes the form and signs it, it becomes a medical order.

Wrapping It Up

Having a discussion around your parent’s advance care planning may be difficult to have right now, but it will make decisions very clear and easier to make when the time comes where the plan needs to be implemented.  Participating in advance care planning will allow you and your parent’s to face end-of-life care with the dignity and respect that it deserves.