The choice is yours.
Life is all about choices. There are simple choices and then there are the really hard choices: those we sometimes don’t want to make, talk about or even think about.
If you were in a car accident today and had to be placed on life support, have you thought about what care you would need? Have you told anyone what matters to you if you were in this situation? If you had a stroke and were left paralyzed and unable to speak, do you have someone designated to speak for you? Does this person know what matters to you and what decisions you might make for yourself if you could? It’s a lot to think about, and it can be overwhelming. ECU Health is here to help.
No one wants to think about dying, but it’s going to happen to all of us one day. You have the power to make your own decisions about your future health care, including end of life care, now. The choice is yours. Advance care planning is a process that helps you decide what care you would want or don’t want if you are faced with a health crisis and are unable to communicate for yourself.
Watch the short instructional video from Legal Aid of NC to walk you step by step through completion of the Toolkit.
If you are interested in becoming a facilitator for advance care planning, please download this information packet and follow the registration instructions.
The process is ideally completed while you are well, and not in a crisis as this allows you to thoughtfully consider your values and treatment preferences, so that these align. If your choices for future health care are known, they can be respected. This guide will walk you through the process of completing your advance care plan, step by step.
The important first step is thinking about what matters most to you and how that might influence future health care decisions. Consider these questions and make note of your answers to help you in the next steps.
- What gives your life value, meaning and purpose?
- What does “quality of life” mean to you?
- What would you miss most if you couldn’t walk, talk, eat or think normally?
- What would you be willing to give up or tolerate in order to keep what matters most to you?
- Have you or anyone else you know had a good or a bad health care experience?
- Has anyone close to you died? Do you think their death was a “good” death or “bad” death? Why?
- Do you have a medical condition that may get worse, and how will this affect your quality of life?
- Are you having medical treatments that affect your quality of life? What medical problems do you think you might have in the future?
- Who would you want to speak for you about health care decisions if you could not communicate for yourself?
Having a conversation with your health care provider(s) is a great place to start. They can help you understand your current health and what you might need in the future. They can also provide information about the potential outcomes of treatment to consider in deciding if you would want certain treatments if this meant you might not return to your previous quality of life.
Discuss your thoughts with your family, friends or those closest to you. Close loving relationships don’t necessarily mean they know or understand what matters most to you or your preferences for future health care. These choices should be talked about with the people who would most likely be involved in making decisions on your behalf.
Now that you have thought about and discussed your choices with your health care provider(s) and your family or loved ones, you are ready to complete an Advance Directive. Advance Directives may include any or all of the following:
- Health Care Power of Attorney – must be signed, witnessed and notarized
- Living Will – must be signed, witnessed and notarized
- Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment – must be signed, witnessed and notarized
- Medical Orders for the Scope of Treatment (MOST) – a Doctor’s order, signed by you and your Doctor
- Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) – a Doctor’s order, signed by your Doctor, kept with you at all times
Congratulations! Now that you have completed your Advance Directives, you will need to share the completed documents with your health care provider(s) and your family or those closest to you so they can act upon your instructions should you ever be unable to communicate your choices for yourself. Be sure to have conversations with your family and those closest to you. Some families can accomplish this in one conversation, others will require more. There is no right or wrong way to have these conversations.
Lastly, review your documents periodically, at least once a year, and also if your health status changes to assure these documents reflect your current preferences. Looking back over your Advance Directives periodically is very important. People’s thoughts, perspectives and viewpoints can change or evolve over time. A good rule of thumb is to re-examine your Advance Directive with major life changes (marriage, birth of a child, significant illness, divorce, death of a family member, etc.) or at least annually. Remember to review any updates to your advance directive with your health care provider(s) and those closest to you.