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Advance Care Directives: Crisis Plan for Peace of Mind

  • Mar 21, 2024
  • Hilary Simonson
  • 4-min Read

I don’t know many people who want to think about their own death. Planning for death, or the period right before death, is a tough subject. Personally, I’d rather think about taxes. But I’d also rather have all those plans made before they’re necessary. The last thing my loved ones should have to worry about amid a crisis is my medical intervention preference.

What Is An Advance Care Directive?

As a definition, The National Institute on Aging website says: “advance care planning involves discussing and preparing for future decisions about your medical care if you become seriously ill or unable to communicate your wishes” so as discussions go, this should not be as challenging as it feels. But so often, we put it off until absolutely necessary.

Recently, one of my family members was in the hospital for what we believed would be a relatively minor surgery. Initially, when she went in for the procedure, none of us were thinking about what she had in her advance care directive. However, complications arose during the surgery, putting her into the intensive care unit with an uncertain possibility of survival. As we left the hospital much later that night, after trying to determine her next step preferences while she was under the veil of strong pain killers – her ‘in case of emergency’wishes were the under-discussed detail on everyone’s mind.

Download our eBook to learn more about how you can proactively prepare: Creating Your Advance Directive

Expecting The In-Between

An advance care directive is as much for your family and loved ones as it is for you. And it’s not just for seniors. Because anything can happen – at any time, it helps those you love to know your wishes when it comes to life sustaining interventions, power of attorney, and even the ways in which you would want your last moments of life to play out.

Matthew McGraw, DNP, RN, Palliative Care Nursing Supervisor at Lifespark suggests a Boy Scout’s approach to this kind of conversation, “If we’re hoping for the best, but we’re preparing for the worst and expecting something in between, that really aligns with the concept of advanced care planning.” For every person, whether you’re Lifespark eligible or well below the age of retirement, McGraw says, “If I give somebody the choice between being hooked up to a ventilator, surrounded by clinicians, in gowns in the hospital, versus being at home in their own bed, surrounded by loved ones, most people are going to want the second scenario. They don’t want to be in the hospital. They want to be surrounded by people that they love.”

Chart Your Course

A big part of the way Lifespark helps seniors age magnificently is through our whole-person support. Advance care directives give peace of mind to both our members and their loved ones. McGraw offers this analogy, “Our lives are like airplanes. We’ve all got to take off and fly our course. As we get to the end of trip, the health care team is an air traffic control tower with a line of sight to that plane. When it looks like the plane is coming in for a landing, we’re going to be in direct communication and helping the pilot navigate that landing. It’s a two-way channel though; it helps everyone to know where the pilot is at so we can guide the plane in for a soft landing.”

Whether for yourself or to get the ball rolling with an older loved one, learning more about the process will benefit all your loved ones in the long run. Lifespark has a downloadable ebook that is easy to follow and includes a popular Advance Directive short form called Honoring Choices. Getting started on end of life planning now rather than when it’s needed, could even help you get a little time back at the end.

Download our eBook to learn more about how you can proactively prepare: Creating Your Advance Directive

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