Thinking about your mortality can be uncomfortable. However, making choices about your healthcare before it’s needed can be empowering.
Research has shown multiple benefits from taking an active role in your end-of-life planning. This is especially true for people with cancer, other potentially life-threatening illnesses or conditions that may get in the way of making wishes known, such as dementia.
Document Your Wishes
End-of-life planning involves making an advance directive. This includes documents that name someone to make healthcare decisions for you (a healthcare agent) and which life-sustaining treatments you want and don’t want (a living will).
“Most people have not had personal experience with life-sustaining treatments like CPR, feeding tubes and ventilators. It’s easy to imagine receiving treatment, recovering and returning to your typical life,” said Jessica Burns, AGNP-C, palliative care provider at Archbold Medical Center. “This can happen. But if you have a serious health condition, that may not be realistic.”
Taking the time to learn about what your world might look like after life-sustaining treatments can help you make better decisions about what’s right for you. For many people, this process brings several unexpected benefits.
Worth the Effort
“End-of-life planning isn’t just about what you want then you’re dying,” said Kayte Nelson, patient advocate at Archbold. “It’s also about how you want to live and how you want to support your loved ones.”
People who actively plan their end-of-life care typically report less anxiety and higher satisfaction with their medical care. Their family members also experience decreased stress and fewer conflicts with other loved ones when decisions need to be made.
End-of-life planning can also help you have:
- Fewer necessary or unwanted treatments
- Lower overall costs for end-of-life care
- More say in where you’d like to be when you die
- Shorter hospitalizations
“Patients who make end-of-life plans tend to get palliative or hospice care earlier,” said Burns. “This can significantly improve comfort. Plus, it gives patients and their families the emotional and spiritual support they need at a difficult time.”
Starting the Converstation
Talking with your provider or a patient advocate is an excellent first step in your planning. They can help you make a plan and provide information about available care options. They can also let you know how these options might affect you and your situation. Some people benefit from talking with close friends or family members.
“There isn’t one right way to make end-of-life decisions,” said Nelson. “The important thing is simple to get started, document your wishes and let others know your plan.”
Advance Directives in Five Simple Steps
Advance directives record what types of medical care you’d like to have or avoid and who you’d like to make medical decisions.
These documents are vital for everyone, regardless of health status.
Thinking about these topics may be challenging, but the process of making advance directives is easy:
- Identify your wishes. Decide what types of life-sustaining care you prefer.
- Pick someone you trust to make decisions for you.
- Write it down. You can use the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care to record your information. You’ll need two witnesses to sign the document.
- Give a copy of your advance directives to your healthcare agent, physicians and loved ones.
- Review and update your directive regularly. Choices may change over time.
Archbold patient advocates are trained to provide guidance and support for planning end-of-life care. Call 229.264.4341 to get started.