In her role as a nurse practitioner at Hospice of the Western Reserve, Sarah Blowers helps individuals with advanced illness communicate personal healthcare choices. In this article, she explains why having a plan in place is important for adults of all ages.
Q: Sarah, you are especially passionate about the topic of advance care planning. What is this?
A: Advance care planning entails making decisions about the care you want to receive if you should become unable to speak for yourself. The decisions are based on each individual’s personal values, goals, preferences, and discussions with their loved ones.
Q: Why is it important for families?
A: Anyone can be involved in a serious accident or develop an illness that leaves them unable to communicate. If this should happen, who will speak for you? What decisions will they make? It’s important to tell family, friends and healthcare providers what your wishes and personal beliefs are. Having a plan in place and the appropriate documents completed ensures personal preferences for the care you want will be honored.
Q: What are the decisions I need to consider?
A: It’s important to get information about your illness and what to expect in the future. Information should also include beneficial treatments available, life-sustaining treatments and outcomes in the context of your illness. This information helps determine the type of treatment you would want or not want when faced with a serious illness. It’s equally important to share personal values so loved ones won’t be faced with trying to guess what you would want in a crisis situation.
Q: How do I start these discussions with my family?
A: It takes thought, emotional readiness and time to sort out the options. Have a series of conversations. Allow time for thought and consideration of the options. Sharing choices through conversation is an important first step. In the long run, the conversations will be the greatest gift you can give to those you love. It will give them the confidence to act knowingly on your behalf and provide the comfort of knowing that your wishes will be honored.
Q: Once I have made decisions, how do I go about documenting them?
A: Completing an Advance Directive will allow you to document your choices in writing so others will know what they are. In the state of Ohio, an Advance Directive includes:
- Health Care Power of Attorney — This indicates who you choose to be your voice for healthcare decisions if you cannot speak for yourself.
- Living Will — This indicates what medical treatments you would or would not want at the end of life.
Q: Are there any resources to help?
A: Yes, Hospice of the Western Reserve offers a workbook called “Courage in Conversation” that includes helpful tips for having conversations with your family, worksheets to help evaluate your personal values and goals, and the Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will forms. The free booklets can be downloaded at hospicewr.org/decisions.