We make plans throughout our lives: for our education, our careers, for vacations, weddings, families and retirement. But have you truly thought about, spoken about or planned for your health and medical care wishes? Do you know your loved ones’ wishes? It’s a topic that can be difficult to discuss, let alone start.
“Most of us don’t usually find these important conversations pleasant or easy,” says John Tastad, program coordinator for Sharp HealthCare’s Advance Care Planning program. “The goal is to be able to have more open conversations about who we would want to speak for us, and what types of medical treatment we would want or not want, well before a challenging medical situation. These are meaningful conversations that should take place around the kitchen table, rather than the hospital bed.”
No matter your age or health status, you should think about advance care planning. Here are a few steps to help get you started:
- Carefully select a person who could be available to make health care decisions in the event that you ever become unable to speak for yourself. The person that you select should be someone you trust. Ask the person if they are willing and able to honor your health care wishes if you ever become unable to make your own decisions.
- Think about your values and beliefs, and the type of medical care you want in the event that you cannot communicate, even for a short time.
- Talk to loved ones about the kinds of medical treatment you want in various situations.
- Write down your health care wishes in an advanced health care directive.
- Share your wishes with your doctor, family members and your designated health care decision-maker.
“Typically, the most difficult part of advance care planning is having an open, honest discussion with loved ones and family members,” Tastad adds. “But it’s an important conversation that takes the bedside guessing out of these often difficult situations. Many people even think of advance care planning as a 'gift' that they can leave their loved ones to help avoid the distress that can come from making difficult medical decisions.”