Taking the first step to complete your advance directives is simple and is so important for your loved ones to truly understand your values and priorities for end-of-life care. Deciding Tomorrow Today will help you start these conversations and help your loved ones feel at peace with your decisions.
Deciding What’s Best for Your Healthcare Starts Now
People have personal priorities and intellectual, emotional or spiritual beliefs that affect their medical decisions. This is especially true at the end of life with regard to the use of life-sustaining treatments.
Did you know…
- Most people say they would prefer to die at home, yet only about one-third of adults have an advance directive expressing their wishes for end-of-life care (Pew 2006, AARP 2008). Among those 60 and older, that number rises to about half of older adults completing a directive.
- Only 28 percent of home health care patients, 65 percent of nursing home residents and 88 percent of hospice care patients have an advance directive on record (Jones 2011).
- Even among severely or terminally ill patients, fewer than 50 percent had an advance directive in their medical record (Kass-Bartelmes 2003).
- Between 65 and 76 percent of physicians whose patients had an advance directive were not aware that it existed (Kass-Bartelmes 2003).
Tomorrow, You Can Rest Assured Your Wishes Are Communicated
It may seem simple to designate your end-of-life care wishes, but we can never foresee all the possible scenarios.
Choosing a healthcare agent is an important task in advance care planning. A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a signed, dated, and witnessed document naming another person as your “healthcare agent” or “proxy” to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them yourself.
How do I choose a healthcare agent? It’s always smart to think about choosing a person you trust to make these decisions and who can effectively communicate your wishes regarding treatment goals, procedures and all healthcare related matters in the event that you are unable to make these decisions yourself.
The following questions can help you determine if you’ve made the best decision choosing a healthcare agent:
- Is this person an adult (must be at least 18 years old)?
- Do they agree to accept this role?
- Do they have the emotional and mental ability to uphold your wishes even if they conflict with their own?
- Are they able to communicate effectively with health care providers?
- Do you view them as calm and focused during emotional times and periods of stress?
- Are they willing to withhold or withdraw life prolonging equipment if this is your choice?
Today is the Day to Start Your Healthcare Planning, for You and Your Loved Ones
Once you feel you’ve made the best choice, complete the DPOA paperwork designating this person (or persons) to be your healthcare agent. When the DPOA paperwork is complete, provide a copy to your healthcare agent, family members and healthcare providers. In order for your loved ones to truly understand your values and priorities it will be necessary to have several conversations over time.
No one, but you should decide what is best for you. Write it down - while you are in the right frame of mind and health to do so.”
Start by making an appointment with your physician. Let the staff know that you would like to discuss your advance directives to ensure the doctor will make time for this important subject.
You may say things such as:
- "I want to have a conversation about my wishes and goals for end-of- life care."
- "Have you heard about (insert your preferred advanced directive preparation tool here)? Here is what I’ve come up with so far." Be sure to ask questions if you need clarity.
- "My friend died while they were reviving her in the hospital and I don’t want that. Here's what I would prefer..."
- "I do not want to die at home. If possible, I’d like to be __________(in a hospital, hospice, etc.)." or "I prefer to die at home, if possible."
We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.
— Gwendolyn Brooks
Family & Friends
It is also important to advise your family and friends of your choice even if they are not going to be your appropriate decision maker. It’s often better to discuss your wishes and goals now, prior to becoming ill, to avoid shock and discomfort when your loved ones hear of your desires. Discuss like those in the list above to fully explain your desires and goals.
And as ridiculous as it may sound, sometimes all any of us needs in life is for someone to to hold our hand and walk next to us.
— James Frey
Speak to this person the same way you would a friend or family member. Be honest and share as much as you feel comfortable discussing. Use the questions and tips from above. Be sure to immediately inform this person of any changes to your advanced directives.
- Do understand that this may be difficult for some of your loved ones to discuss.
- Don’t feel rushed. This is just the beginning of many conversations.
- Do be patient. This can be a difficult subject to talk about.
- Do understand that you can always make changes to your advance directives.
- Don’t judge others. Death is very individualized and may mean different things to different people.
- Do give loved ones time to “digest” if needed.