Planning for the Unpredictable Future

By Jaime Cobb

Life is full of unpredictable events – sickness, accidents and career changes just to name a few. So how do you plan for a future that can be suddenly changed by something like a debilitating disease? A process called advanced care planning can help.

What Is Advance Care Planning?

In the health care community, advance care planning helps alleviate the stress on those making difficult medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make them yourself. Per the National Institute on Aging, it involves:

Learning about the types of decisions that might need to be made, considering those decisions ahead of time and then letting others know – both your family and your health care providers – about your preferences.

This process of reflecting on, understanding and communicating your wishes, values and beliefs will help guide you and your loved ones toward the things that matter most and help you make decisions for your future health care plans.

When advance care planning, it is important to consider a number of things. Ask yourself:

  • What does living well mean to you?
  • What/who brings meaning and satisfaction to your life?
  • Do you have any values or beliefs that may affect your decisions for treatment?
  • What measures of comfort are important to you?
  • What kind of care would you want?
  • Where would you like to receive care?

Your answers will probably change over the course of your life as your situation and health changes. Advance care planning is not a one-and-done event; it is a process of planning ahead and expressing your desires as they evolve.

Focus on the effects of treatment decisions as well. Do these effects or outcomes line up with your values and what quality of life means to you? Are you willing to try certain treatments that might be a bridge to your recovery? If there is a low chance of recovery, would you be willing to go ahead with the treatment?

Get Guidance

Talking with a trusted doctor, nurse, chaplain, social worker, estate planning lawyer or someone trained in advance care planning can help you work through important questions. To make decisions on your behalf, also appoint a health care agent (decision-maker) that will speak for you in the case you are unable to communicate your wishes and values. A few things to consider when choosing a health care agent:

  • This person will honor your health care choices even if they do not agree with them
  • This person can make decisions during difficult or emotional situations
  • This person accepts the role of health care agent and has at least one other person as a backup

Draft an Advance Directive

The more you share your health care choices and values with your agent and family members, the less stress, confusion or potential conflict they are likely to face. One of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is to have a written plan that outlines your preferences, formally known as an advance directive. This living, legal document should be reviewed periodically and updated as your desires change. Modifications should be discussed with your agent and copies given to your agent and all health care professionals you are working with.

Need assistance with your advance care plans? Connect with a James L. West specialist by phone at 817-877-1199.