Advance care planning has received a bad rap in the last 5 years. In 2009, certain elected officials criticized the healthcare reform bill for including voluntary planning conversations with physicians. They used inflammatory phrases: “death panels” or “rationing care”. Unfortunately, the real losers (in the fallout from those false and misleading phrases) are individuals who receive unwanted medical treatment and procedures because they have not had conversations with their doctors or their loved ones.
Of course, no one can predict when a trauma or medical crisis will occur in our lives. But that is the absolute point in having (and documenting) conversations early and regularly about our options and choices.
We are so good at planning for the “what ifs” in other areas of our lives. Some people plan for the possibility of car problems by carrying jumper cables, flares, and a spare tire. Others plan for the possibility that we might experience weather-related power outages — so we prepare our homes with back-up generators and keep candles/flashlights within easy reach. We also plan for joyous occasions like weddings, holiday celebrations, and even adopting pets. Many plan for a baby’s arrival by painting the nursery, assembling furniture, and reading books to arm ourselves with remedies for everything that “might” occur during the pregnancy.
We plan for things that will occur AFTER our deaths. We plan for our funerals; we purchase caskets and burial plots years ahead of time. And some of us plan for our families’ financial security through life insurance policies to cover the mortgage or other bills. We also prepare Wills to distribute our property and money to our loved ones or charities. We are planners in all areas of life and after our death … but we do not make plans for how we die. Obviously, no one knows when their “time” will come. But when it does, what will be our plan?
There are many purposes in planning in general, but specifically for our health care choices, these are key considerations:
- To examine all possible angles and options (the “what ifs”)
- To learn about and coordinate resources (who can help; how can they help)
- To prepare a plan of action (if this happens, then do this)
- To prepare for missteps or changes in the plan (if Plan A fails, move to Plan B)
Many research articles support having these most important planning conversations with our family, friends, spiritual advisors, and healthcare providers. We need to consider all the angles/options (risks and benefits), coordinate resources, and prepare our loved ones for Plan A, B and C. Most importantly, we need to acknowledge that each of us will die although we don’t know when or where. Fortunately, most of us have the ability to make decisions and choices about how we die. Whether that means in our own beds with our family and friends around us, or in a hospital ICU tethered to every piece of medical technology available – each person has the right to make his/her choices and have them honored.
Caring Choices can help you start this important planning. Contact us now to schedule your conversation.
© 2013 Caring Choices