A healthcare professional recently remarked that an advance directive is “all you need” for your family to make decisions on your behalf … but that couldn’t be farther from reality.
Typical advance directives (most people know them as a Living Will) consist of a list of 5-7 undefined items to which a person chooses “I do want” or “I do not want” responses. These simple “choices” are designed to help loved ones and healthcare providers know what kind of care and treatment one might want in a multitude of illnesses and medical crises.
Is it any wonder that people don’t want to have these difficult conversations when healthcare professionals themselves believe that a piece of paper is all you need?
I’ve said before that the documents (Power of Attorney for financial and healthcare decisions, Living Wills, Guardianship, etc.) are important legal documents to produce when speaking on behalf of someone who can no longer communicate or make their own decisions. However, the documents are not enough. Not even close to enough.
The most important thing we can each do to help our loved ones and healthcare professionals provide care and treatment that we desire is to consider possible healthcare scenarios that we may face, have conversations, make our decisions, and then talk – talk – talk some more.
- Talk ‘til the cows come home.
- Talk ‘til we’re blue in the face.
- Chew the fat.
- Talk it through.
- Talk turkey.
- Have a bull session.
- Shoot the breeze.
- Spill the beans.
There’s no one way to talk. It really depends on your style, your family dynamics, comfort zones, and the support/encouragement available.
And while we’re all talking, we need to educate our healthcare providers. We need to tell them that it’s okay to bring up the subject of end-of-life planning. In many cases, people WANT their healthcare providers to be the ones to initiate these conversations. Healthcare providers have experience in many situations and can provide concrete information when patients/families ask important questions.
Caring Choices can help anyone learn how to talk about these important decisions and also how to share decisions with people you love. Conversations, decisions and documents – THAT’s all you need.