Living well Your Health & Wellness

For your peace of mind and for the people you love, plan in advance for your care

Written by Diane Archer

No matter how old you are, planning for your future care needs is one important gift you can give yourself and your family. Advance care planning helps ensure that your care wishes are honored if you are not able to speak for yourself.

No one knows when they may suffer a serious illness or injury and find themselves unable to speak for themselves. That’s why advance care planning is extremely important for people of all ages. Medicare covers advance care planning as part of your Annual Wellness Visit with your primary care physician.

If you should become seriously ill, advance care planning helps you understand and consider your care options—either curative care or hospice care. And you’ll also explore with your doctor whether you would prefer to die at home or in the hospital. You’ll ensure that the care you get is the care you want, even if you’re not able to reveal your wishes.

Advance care planning should also include completing written advance directives—a health care proxy and living will. These legal documents help ensure your treatment wishes are honored. This advance care planning is separate from your doctor’s visit. Advance directives–a health care proxy and a living will–ensure your designated agent can speak on your behalf and honor your care wishes. Through a living will, you make clear your health care wishes should you not be able to express them. Through a health care proxy, you name someone you trust to speak on your behalf if you cannot speak for yourself.

Only three out of ten Americans have advance directives. Many people don’t realize they need them.  And, even if you want one, it’s easy to put off completing the advance care plan.  So, if you don’t yet have a living will or health care proxy, here are three steps to take on your own, when you’re spending time with family. Ideally, you should have a living will and health care proxy before a hospital stay.

  1. Talk to your parents and kids about the kind of care you would want if something were to happen to you and you could not decide for yourself the care you need. Consider as well whether you would want hospice care, which Medicare covers.
  2. Pick someone whom you trust to make decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself, your “health care proxy.”
  3. Complete a written health care proxy and living will, and share them with the person you have chosen to make decisions on your behalf, your family and loved ones, as well as with your doctors. You might also consider giving your health care proxy or someone else you trust a power of attorney. You should consult an elder care lawyer if you can.

For a free advance directive from Caring Connections, click hereClick here for advice from Dr. Atul Gawande about planning for end-of-life care.

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