Senior couple and medical professional

There are a number of options for end of life care, and a number of considerations to make when deciding which is right for you or your loved one. These decisions are difficult to make, and are made even more difficult when time is a significant factor and treatment is needed right away. That's why advanced care planning is so important. It allows you to make decisions for yourself well ahead of the crucial time when you'll need them. This also lays out a clear plan of care for your loved ones should you be incapable of communicating these wishes when they're needed. This ensures that your end of life care goes how you envision it, rather than being forced into facilities due to timing and circumstances. Here's some good information on advanced care planning that everyone should know. The best time to start planning is right now, before you need to. 

Advance Care Planning Statistics

The California HealthCare Foundation completed a survey in 2012 that found, while many understand that planning for care is important, it's a topic and task that is often ignored. A majority of the participants in the survey rated "making sure family isn't burdened by touch decisions" as "extremely important". However, a similar majority admitted they haven't communicated their end of life wishes to anyone. Only 23-percent of respondents had put anything in writing regarding their care wishes, despite 82-percent believing that it was important to do so. And, only 7-precent had talked to their primary physician, or any other medical professional, about end of life care. It's not an easy conversation to have, but it's an extremely valuable and important one. 

Topics To Discuss

Talking about end of life care with your family and medical professionals can be made easier through some planning of what topics need to be covered. First should be your physical needs and the environment you'd like to be in. Preferences on dying at home versus in a nursing facility or hospital should be clearly expressed. So too should be who you want around in your final days. Family members should know if you'd like their help, or company, so they don't feel in the way when that time comes. Additionally, let them know if you want the help of paid caregivers, or if you'd like to spend time alone or with a spouse. Funeral plans should come next on your list. You'll need to decide between burial or cremation, and organ donation. You'll also want to express any specific wishes you have for the funeral ceremony. There are also legal and financial matters to cover, including preparing your will, assigning co-signers to bank accounts, and guardianship arrangements. Finally, consider any other personal matters that may be important to you during your end of life care. For example, some patients want to experience their favorite hobby one more time, or to take one last trip. For wishes or unfinished business, it's important that your family and physician are aware and able to help you. 

Documents Needed

While communicating your plans is important, you also need to include them in writing in specific documents. This ensures that you're legally protected and that the end of life care you've drawn out is what you receive. Start with a living will. This acts as a blueprint for your medical care and will include specific instructions to follow for certain healthcare circumstances. If you are unconcsious or otherwise unable to communicate, this document will provide guidance for your family and doctors. A Healthcare Proxy is another document you'll need to complete. This is where you'll select your durable power of attorney, or healthcare surrogate, who will be able to make medical decisions for you when you're not able to, and when direction isn't specified in your living will. Rules for notarizing and requirements for witnesses for these documents vary by state, so be sure you investigate these rules before completing these documents. 

At Cura-HPC, we invite families to meet with us for consultation on end of life care options and ask questions about hospice and palliative care. Contact us at (800)797-3839.