Advanced Care Planning Tips

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In addition to Easter, Sunday was National Healthcare Decisions Day. This week health professionals are raising awareness about planning for the future. This day highlights the importance of advance care planning, or making sure loved ones are aware of your wishes if you become ill.

In many cases we assist injured people who are unable to speak for themselves. If you are unable to speak for yourself because of an injury, you will want legal documents that tell others how you want to be treated. It’s important to note that this is an important step to take regardless of age. While you are more likely to need advance care planning as you age, you can have an injury that impairs your decision making at any age.

According to research by PEW in 2006 most Americans say they would rather die at home, however only about 33% of Americans have the advance directive that expresses those wishes. Among terminally ill patients, only about half have any advanced care planning at all. By taking the steps necessary for advanced care planning, you can make sure that you are taken care of, exactly how you want to be taken care of.

So how do you start with your advanced care planning? It can be uncomfortable but the conversation should begin first with your family and caregivers. Make sure to tell your loved ones and any healthcare professionals you visit your values, and if there are treatments you want to avoid if you become impaired. You will need to pick a family member who is able to make the decisions you want if you are incapacitated. Tell loved ones about any health issues that can arise in the future and go over treatment options that you prefer.

Discuss with your family where you want to be cared for and how they should handle your affairs if you are not at home. Who takes care of the house? Pays the bills? Who looks after the pets? Make a list of all the details that your healthcare power of attorney needs to understand. Personal finances usually cause the most strain, so make sure they have access to an account that will enable to them to take care of your finances, including any funeral arrangements. You should even discuss who should talk with any children in your family to explain what’s going on.

After the initial discussions you will need to put your wishes on a piece of paper. An advance health directive is a legal document that gives instructions on what your future healthcare should be, if your decision-making is impaired. You should also create a legal Statement of Choices which will tell healthcare professionals and family about your wishes, values and beliefs. Finally you and your power of attorney should work with a lawyer to create a will. After the legal documents are created you will share the documents with your decision-makers, caregivers, family, doctors, facility and your legal team. Keep the original documents with your other important files at home and make sure your power of attorney knows where they are located.

Don’t forget to review and updated your documents as needed. Your medical conditions and needs may change throughout the course of your life. Lifestyle changes or advances in medicines may alter how you wish to be taken care of. Always make sure the documents that state how you want to be cared for are up to date.

Preparing for the unthinkable is an uncomfortable process for many. But letting others know about your wishes will make sure that you will be cared for how you wish, and will save your family and healthcare providers a lot of stress and potential legal problems.

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