A Well-Planned Life

Q: What do you do to help individuals who are seriously ill make decisions about their care?

A: I oversee the medical care provided by hospice teams in peoples’ own homes. Our teams work with patients and families to develop customized care plans so patients are as comfortable as possible.

Q: You are especially passionate about the topic of advance care planning. What is this?

A: I have conversations with patients and their families about their goals, personal values and preferences. The goal is to help them make the right decisions about the care they want if should they become unable to speak for themselves. The decisions are based on personal values, goals, preferences, and discussions with their loved ones.

Q: Why is this important to families?

A: Advance care planning discussions are appropriate for adults at any stage of life. Anyone can be involved in a serious accident or develop an illness that leaves them unable to communicate. If this should happen, who will speak for you? It’s important to tell family, friends and healthcare providers what your wishes and personal beliefs are. Having a plan in place and the appropriate documents completed ensures personal preferences for the care you want will be honored.

Q: What needs be to considered?

A: It’s important to get information about your illness and what to expect in the future. This should include beneficial treatments, life-sustaining treatments and outcomes in the context of your illness. This knowledge helps determine the type of treatment you would want or not want when faced with a serious illness. It’s equally important to share personal values with loved ones so they won’t be faced with trying to guess what you would want in a crisis situation.

Q: How do I get started?

A: It takes thought, emotional readiness and time to sort out the options and ready oneself for this serious undertaking. It’s best to take your time. Have a series of conversations. Sharing your choices through conversation is an important first step. In the long run, the conversations will be the greatest gift you can give to those you love. Knowing your choices provides loved ones with the confidence to act on your behalf and gives you the comfort of knowing your wishes will be honored.

Q: How do I document my decisions?

A: Completing an Advance Directive documents your choices in writing. In Ohio, an Advance Directive includes:

• Health Care Power of Attorney- This form documents the person you select to be your voice for your healthcare decisions if you cannot speak for yourself.
• Living Will This form documents what kinds of medical treatments you would or would not want at the end of life.
• Comfort Care Orders These are medical orders written by a Physician or Nurse Practitioner based on patients’ expressed goals/values that indicate the primary goal is comfort, declining CPR/Artificial Life support.

Q: Are there resources to help me begin?

A: Yes, Hospice of the Western Reserve offers a free workbook called Courage in Conversation that includes tips and worksheets. The Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will forms are included. The booklets can be downloaded at hospicewr.org/decisions.