Everything You Need to Know About Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning

No one plans for “emergencies” — they just happen. And they can happen at any time. When a medical emergency leaves us too ill to speak for ourselves, we rely on those around us to make the “right” choices. That’s a lot of responsibility to place on our loved ones — and it’s also nerve-racking, since there’s no way to know for sure if those choices will reflect your own desires. The advance care planning process is designed to put those worries and anxieties to rest. Here’s how to make your own plan so you can feel confident your wishes will be carried out.

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning involves writing down all your wishes and directions for how you’d like your healthcare handled if you become too infirm or disabled to make those decisions for yourself. Recording your preferences now is really the best way (and sometimes the only way) to feel confident your wishes will be carried out in the future if you encounter a medical problem that makes it impossible for you to speak on your behalf. Even though your loved ones may feel they have your best interests at heart, no one knows better than you how you’d like to have your medical affairs handled. Plus, advance care planning takes a lot of the burden and responsibility from your loved ones’ shoulders, so you’re not leaving them with doubts about the care decisions they make.

How do I decide what to include?

Advance care planning can cover an array of medical issues and possibilities, and it can be difficult to make sure you’ve “covered all your bases” in your plan. At Mountain Medical Arts LLC, our team will work with you to educate you about the planning process and help you understand the steps you need to take to make sure your plan reflects your wishes and your values. Plus, we’ll review some of the most common situations that can be covered in advance care planning, as well as issues that are specific to your medical history and health risks. Some basic situations that should be considered include:

Your directive should also specify care related to helping you maintain a certain quality of life. For instance, if “heroic” measures can be used to save your life, but you would be on a ventilator or in a nursing home for your remaining years, is that acceptable? These are all important concerns that aren’t always easy to think about, but planning now means you won’t be placed in an untenable situation later, at a time when you’re unable to raise concerns or objections. While your own preferences obviously take precedence, many people also involve their family members so they understand the reasoning behind the directive.

Next step: Durable power of attorney

Your directive spells out your wishes, but you’ll still need to appoint someone to make sure those wishes are carried out. A durable power of attorney is a legal document that appoints someone to carry out your advance directive. The power of attorney will need to be drawn up by a lawyer. Our team can help explain the process to you and to the person you select for your power of attorney.

Share your plan and download a wallet card

During the planning process, you’ll create a document called an advance care directive which you can provide to your loved ones and your medical care provider. You should keep a copy for yourself as well, storing it in a safe spot in your home. The American Hospital Association offers a free downloadable card you can fill out and keep in your wallet, letting emergency personnel know whom to contact if you’re injured and can’t speak for yourself.

Change your plan as your needs change

Your advance healthcare directive is not written in stone (and neither is your power of attorney). You can update your document whenever you like. Just be sure your healthcare provider and loved ones know about the change, and be sure to update your wallet card as well. You can either destroy your older documents or make a bold note on the first page indicating that a new document has been made that overrides it.

Advance care planning is an important part of making sure you lead your life on your own terms. To learn more about how to set up a healthcare directive, book an appointment online today.

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