It’s an all too common situation that occurs in hospitals each day. A family is at the bedside of a loved one who is seriously ill, possibly 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. Decisions are made in haste, under stress and might not reflect the wishes of that person in the hospital bed. It does not have to be that way.
Too many people wait until they are in the midst of a serious medical crisis before thinking about what options are available or what care they would want or would be best. It’s never too early to think about and plan for the care you would want if you were faced with a medical crisis — that’s what advance care planning is all about.
Advance care planning
Advance care planning is not about the end. It’s about having heart to heart conversations with loved ones and discussing values, priorities and wishes. It’s about documenting those wishes in an advance directive and sharing it with friends, family and healthcare providers. Doing this will ensure that we will get the care we want should we not be able to speak for ourselves. It’s about giving a gift to our loved ones who will know what’s important to us long before we face a serious illness or medical emergency.
All forms of advance directives — which can include a living will, health care proxy or health care power of attorney or even a POLST or MOLST form from our physician — are tools one can use to make health care preferences known and help to ensure we get the care that we want.
These conversations and advance directives do not have to be done in a lawyer’s office. They can take place around the kitchen table or in the family room, not in the midst of a health care crisis.