Couple discussing advance directives

For most of us, researching hospice care, and other care options for ourselves or aging, or ill relatives, only happens when there's an immediate need. Too often, creating a care plan for ourselves is neglected and forgotten until it's the situation becomes dire. Recent research has revealed, however, that those that create a definitive plan for their care near the end of their life also spend less time in the hospital, and receive fewer intensive treatments. Overall, the quality of life for those with advanced directives in place is generally better than those that have no plan in place. Despite this knowledge, less than 30 percent of Americans have put their treatment wishes in writing. It's important for adults at any age to begin to take their end of life care options into consideration. When you do, here are some common mistakes to avoid. 

The Wrong Proxy

One reason why it's important to have a detailed care plan in writing is that you may be incapacitated or unable to speak when you need medical care. In that case, having a plan will help guide your treatment, but you'll also need to choose a healthcare proxy who can ensure your wishes are carried out and make any decisions that aren't explicit in your plan. This proxy can be a friend, relative, or anyone you trust, but it should be chosen carefully. You'll need someone who is strong enough to stand up to those who may oppose your wishes, whether that's your physician or your family. It's typically easier if your proxy agrees with the choices you've made, or at least respects your decisions. And, the current age and health of your prospective proxy should also be taken into consideration to ensure they're physically and mentally able to handle the job when you need them. 

Bogged Down in Details

As soon as you begin to consider your treatment options, you'll likely realize that there is an endless number of potential decisions and scenarios to consider. Trying to make individual choices based on certain outcomes is a waste of time, and it's unlikely that you'll cover all the possibilities anyway. Instead, start from the end and answer broader questions. For example, what details are important to you about your death. That includes where you'd like to be, who you'd like to be around, how aggressive your treatments should be leading up to that day, and similar considerations. Once you've answered that question, decisions on smaller details will fall into place as well. 

Not Involving Your Doctor

There's a good chance that your doctor knows more about your illness and overall health than even you do. Not only that, but in most cases, your doctor will be the one expected to provide the treatments that are important to you, or to oversee your care in some fashion. If you don't involve your doctor in your care plans, it increases the risk that your wishes won't be carried out properly. Only about 25 percent of individuals who have an advanced directive in place involved their physician in creating it, or even informed their doctor that paperwork existed. By meeting with your doctor when you're creating these documents, you'll have more information about the care choices you're considering, and your doctor will know what the plan is, and what to do when this scenario occurs. 

Not Communicating With Loved Ones

Just as you need to have your doctor's involvement in your advanced planning, you also need the involvement of your loved ones. A recent survey revealed that nearly everyone would agree that it's important to discuss end of life care plans with their family, less than a third of these individuals had actually had these conversations. This lack of communication can lead to disagreements, fights, and your wishes not being followed correctly. Gather those closest to you, ideally all at once, and explain to them what choices you've made, and give each of them a copy of your advance directive. This way, they all have the same information and can work together to help you get the treatment you want. 

In addition to this advice, it's important that you revisit your care options documents periodically. As you age, and as your situations changes, and the situations of those around you, you'll want to update and revise your decisions. 

For help gathering information about hospice and palliative care, and making informed decisions about your end of life treatment, contact us at Cura-HPC.