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Advanced Care Planning: A Brief Guide

Advanced Care Planning: A Brief Guide

Do you have a plan for the ‘what ifs’ in life? Most people plan for their dream home, their career, and family. However, a few of us plan for possible situations that may occur, such as accidents, illness, and sudden death.  

After all, who would want to think about the end of life? However, having a plan allows you to ensure that the medical care and treatment you receive are what you want if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself. This is where advanced care planning comes in handy. 

What Is Advanced Care Planning?

Advance care planning is the process of preparing and planning for your future healthcare. During this process, you can evaluate, note, and talk about what type of treatment you want to receive and what results you want to see. 

With a carefully thought plan, your doctors and loved ones will know what your personal and health preferences are and will see to it that they’re respected in case you become seriously ill or injured and are unable to convey your priorities. 

Benefits Of Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning is not only good for you but also for your family, health professionals, associated healthcare organisations, as well as your caregiver. It’ll help guarantee that the care you’re provided with upholds what’s important to you and what you want. It’ll lead to enhanced care as well. 

For your family, advanced care planning can help reduce their emotional problems, such as anxiety and stress, and result in their satisfaction in the quality of care you’re given. Furthermore, it prevents unnecessary transfers and unwanted interventions. 

Advanced Directives: Making Your Advance Care Preferences Known

Advanced directives are written documents that state your healthcare wishes and treatment preferences. In general, there are two main elements of an advanced directive:

Living Will

This is a written document that tells your doctors how you wish to be treated if you’re permanently unconscious or dying and can’t make your own decisions on emergency treatment. 

According to the legal experts of Willed, a platform that allows Australians to create legally valid wills online, you need to be specific when creating your living will. You need to be detailed and outline things, like which treatment and procedure you want and wouldn’t want, under which conditions each of your preferences apply.

Durable Power Of Attorney For Healthcare

This is a legal document that names a healthcare proxy, someone you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf. Your proxy, representative, agent, or surrogate should be familiar with your wishes and values, so they can decide as you would when treatment decisions need to be made. 

Additional Documents

Aside from these main elements, an advanced directive will include other essential documents that can help express your wishes about specific medical issues or something that’s not covered in the previous documents. 

For instance, a living will typically cover only specific life-sustaining treatments. If you want to give your proxy specific instructions about other issues, such as kidney dialysis or organ donation, then you need to draft or order these types of documents:

DNR Orders

Short for Do Not Resuscitate, DNR orders require healthcare providers not to perform CPR if you’re no longer breathing or if you no longer have a pulse. Without this order, a healthcare provider will do everything to bring back a normal heartbeat rhythm. This document is also called the ‘Allow Natural Death’ (AND) order. 

DNI Order

Similar to DNR, a ‘Do Not Intubate’ or a DNI order tells medical staff that you don’t want to be put on a breathing machine. 

POLST And MOLST Forms

These forms provide guidance about your medical care preference and serve as a medical order, in addition to standard advanced directives. In general, you create a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) or Medical Orders for Life-sustaining Treatment (MOLST) when you’re critically ill or experiencing a decline in your health and are aware that specific decisions should be made on your behalf. 

Organ And Tissue Donation

This can be included in your advance directive too. It lets your doctors know that you want to donate your healthy organs and tissues after your death.

What Does Advanced Care Planning Include?

In general, advanced care planning consists of four steps that help you plan for your future medical care. 

Determine Your Preferences And Wishes

First off, you need to think about your preferences and wishes on how you’re treated and cared for. You also need to determine whom would you want to make health are decisions for you in case you’re unable to make them for yourself. 

Talk With Your Family And Doctors

You need to have a focused and meaningful talk with your doctors and loved ones about your medical condition, goals, and treatment options. 

Draft Advance Directives

These documents will act as guidelines for your family and doctors. 

Review And Update

You want to regularly review your written documents and goals as your condition or situation changes to ensure the best possible care in the future.   

When Should You Do Advance Care Planning?

Make sure to discuss advance care planning with your loved ones and healthcare providers. It’s best done at the beginning, while your healthcare plan is in progress. Avoid doing it when you face an emergency or when your health condition worsens. By planning ahead, you’ll be able to express what you want or prioritise while still in a stable condition. 

Below is a list of factors that can lead to discussions of advance care planning:

  • Undergoing a health assessment at the age of 75 or above
  • Being diagnosed with disease that may cause loss of a mental or a physical ability or dementia
  • Being diagnosed with metastatic malignancy
  • Experiencing changes in care arrangements
  • A family member or an individual inquiring about treatment goals
  • An elderly getting a flu shot

Takeaway

Don’t leave your end-of-life care to chance. Talk to the right experts now and start planning for your future healthcare. Having a well-drafted advanced care planning can help guide your loved ones and doctors in making decisions that you prefer. 

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