Advance care planning

It is never too early to begin advance care planning for end of life care.

Advance care planning might seem like it is only for those in their twilight years, something you only start to consider after retirement. However, anyone can find themselves in need of an advance care plan due to a sudden onset of a terminal illness or life-threatening injury. Michigan State University Extension encourages people to be their own best advocate in planning for end of life care.

An advance care plan helps you decide before something happens, what your wishes for end of life care are in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. It also takes the burden off your loved ones of wondering if they made decisions you would have wanted. The time to start an advance care plan is now, especially if you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who currently do not have one.

Where to start

An advance care plan starts by talking with your loved ones. Write things down. Make a list of questions to ask. The decisions are very personal and depend on your values. Take some time to learn what end of life decisions may be needed. The National Institute on Aging outlines some decisions you should know about, this includes: 

  • CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscitation or defibrillation through electric shock to re-start your heart.
  • Ventilator use – a tube inserted into your throat or attached through the trachea to help you breathe.
  • Artificial nutrition or hydration – either a feeding tube or intravenous fluid in case you are unable to eat or drink. 
  • Comfort care – managing symptoms for comfort assistance dealing with shortness of breath, ice chips for dry mouth, and providing spiritual and emotional counseling. It may also include medication for things like pain, anxiety and nausea. Hospice provides comfort care in the home, a hospice facility, a skilled nursing facility or in a hospital.

The next step would be making an advance care directive, which is a legal document. This is a record of your wishes in writing. You would also appoint a durable power of attorney for health care or a health proxy. This person would act to ensure your wishes are followed in the case you are unable either physically or mentally to speak for yourself. 

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