Healthcare Proxies, Medical Power of Attorneys, and more

Senior man in consultation with doctor, nurce. Health monitoring in old age. Verification and decoding of analyzes in old age. Communication, support of medical personnel. Vector flat illustration

By: Kimberly Knight

What is Advanced Care Planning?

Advance Care Planning involves making decisions about your medical care in the event you’re unable to communicate your wishes. It’s a thoughtful process that ensures your preferences are known and respected, allowing you to maintain a sense of control over your health and future.

Why Advanced Care Planning Matters for Caregivers

As a caregiver, it often feels more comfortable to carry out someone’s established wishes rather than make decisions on their behalf. Advance Care Planning offers an opportunity to collaboratively shape your loved one’s aging plan through thoughtful discussions. However, the benefits of Advance Care Planning extend beyond your loved one-they also extend to you.

While caregivers naturally prioritize the well-being of their loved ones, it’s imperative to remember the significance of planning for your own future. A sudden medical crisis could render you unable to advocate for your own healthcare preferences. By proactively planning, you ensure that your desired care is upheld, entrusting someone to act on your behalf when needed.

Key Components of Advanced Care Planning

1. Living Will: A legal document that outlines your preferences for medical treatment in case you are unable to communicate your wishes. It typically addresses issues like life support, resuscitation, and other specific medical interventions.

2. Healthcare Proxy or Medical Power of Attorney: Designating a trusted person (often called a healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney) to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This person should be familiar with your values and preferences.

3. Goals and Values Discussions: Open conversations with family members, healthcare providers, and loved ones about your values, beliefs, and what matters most to you in terms of medical care. These discussions can help guide decision-making if you are unable to make choices for yourself.

4. End-of-Life Care Planning: Addressing issues related to palliative care, hospice care, and comfort measures during the terminal phase of an illness.

5. Communication of Wishes: Clearly communicate your preferences for medical interventions, such as whether you want to receive life-sustaining treatments like ventilators, feeding tubes, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

6. Documentation: Ensuring that your wishes are documented in legally recognized forms, such as advance directives or living wills, so they can be upheld by healthcare providers and institutions.

7. Regular Review: Periodically review and update your advanced care planning documents to ensure they accurately reflect your current preferences and circumstances.

Initiating the Conversation:

Starting the conversation about advance care planning with your family can be challenging, but it’s a crucial step to ensure your wishes are respected. Here’s how to begin:

1. Choose the Right Time and Place: Find a comfortable setting where everyone can feel at ease.

2. Initiate with Sensitivity: Explain why you want to have this conversation and express your intentions.

3. Express your intentions: Make it clear that your goal is to ensure your/their wishes are known and respected. 4. You can also check out The Conversation Project for additional tips and Conversation Starter Guide.

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