By Carol Quiring, Former CEO, Saint Luke’s Home Care and Hospice
Most people like to feel like they’re in control of their lives. We like choosing a doctor, and when and where to receive care. But what happens when we can no longer make our choices known?
National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16 provides an opportunity to talk with loved ones about end of life care. It ensures they control their own health care choices, even when they can no longer speak for themselves.
Once a loved one becomes seriously ill, it can be traumatic to ask, “Would he or she have wanted things this way?” Having the caring conversation ahead of time removes feelings of guilt or anxiety which come from saying, “I don’t know. We never discussed it.”
Every family should have the opportunity to honor their loved ones’ choices. Make National Healthcare Decisions Day your conversation starter.
- It doesn’t have to be awkward. Suggest the conversation a few days in advance to give your loved ones time to thoughtfully consider their wishes.
- Begin by telling loved ones how much you care for them and that your wish is to ensure their choices are honored.
- Reflecting on life well lived and laughter over good memories can be a great way to open the door.
- Move the conversation to the future, asking questions about your loved ones’ wishes for care for the rest of their lives.
- Conversations should focus on the positive, and allow the person’s choices to be heard and validated.
- The conversation should also include your doctor. Be sure to talk to your primary care physician about your health and what options you should consider.
Caring conversations are a healthy gift to families. They provide every person a voice to communicate what is best for them, and to be at peace knowing they will receive the care they want throughout the rest of their lives.
When is the best time to start the conversation? Encourage loved ones to make their wishes known during the prime of life. At the time when someone is facing an illness or becomes unable to speak for themselves, it may be too late. It is healthy for families of all ages to make their wishes known.
As people near the end of life, they often wish for peace, and the knowledge they will be cared for. Caring conversations allow every person the gift of knowing that will happen. Make time to open this important dialogue with those you love on April 16. It may be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Some questions to start the Caring Conversation:
- What does “quality of life” mean to you?
- If you become seriously ill, who would you like to care for you?
- Where would you like to be? Your home? A health care facility? A Hospice House?
- Would you consider Palliative Care to help manage your chronic illness?
- Do you have a Living Will?
- Who would you like to be your Health Care Power of Attorney or Health Care Agent?
- Do you have an Advanced Directive?
- Do you want your life to be sustained on life support equipment or medications?
- Or what measures you would like to keep you comfortable?
- What are the most important things you’d like us to know about your end of life wishes?
Some things to think about:
- Do I need an attorney?
- What kind of person makes the best Health Care Power of Attorney?
- Can I change a Living Will after I make it?
- Palliative care helps make life easier for those who have a long-term chronic illness. Would you consider it?
- If you become in serious pain, who should you tell, and what steps would you take?
- Have you spoken with your primary care physician about his or her suggestions for what you need to consider?