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Advance care planning starts now

Advance care planning starts now

If you are unable to speak for yourself, how would you know that your medical wishes are being followed? Advance care planning removes all doubt, providing your family members with detailed instructions that ensure you receive the level and types of medical treatment you want during a medical emergency.

Advance care planning makes the following clear:

  • If you want medical professionals to use CPR to restore a lost heartbeat
  • Whether you want life-sustaining treatments, such as a ventilator or feeding tube, if your body cannot remain alive on its own
  • If you choose life-sustaining treatments, how long you want this treatment to continue
  • What type of care you want to ensure your physical comfort
  • Your organ donation preference when you’re gone

Get it in writing

The first step in advance care planning is thinking through what you want. To make sure your team follows your wishes, write them down.

Several legal documents are available to help communicate your wishes. Known as advance directives, these instructions make it easy for your family members and health team to know how to best care for you, whether you’re living at home, a senior living community or anywhere else.

Examples of advance medical directives are:

Living will—This lays out the treatment you want if you can’t state your wishes on your own. It’s used if you’re unconscious with no hope of regaining consciousness or have an incurable disease and are at the end of your life. In Louisiana, a living will must be signed by you and two witnesses.

Durable power of attorney for healthcare—With this document, you give someone the power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Also known as medical power of attorney, this legal document goes into effect only when a medical professional confirms you can’t make medical decisions on your own.

Physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST)—Not considered an advance directive, a POLST is available to those with serious health issues. Without a POLST, emergency medical professionals will do everything in their power to keep you alive, even if it goes against your wishes. Here in New Orleans, there is a modified version known as the LaPOST (Louisiana physician orders for scope of treatment).

Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders—If you stop breathing, do you want medical professionals to help you start again? A DNR order lays out your wishes clearly. It explains whether you want to receive CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or get treated with an automated external defibrillator (AED) or breathing machine.

Advance care planning is a process

If you’ve already done your advance care planning, congratulations! Have an advance directive? That’s even more impressive. You’ve done something that more than 60% of Americans haven’t. However, you’re not done yet.

Though you wrote down your wishes for organ donation and end-of-life care, those wishes may change. You may get diagnosed with a difficult disease. Medical therapies may improve. Or you might gain a new perspective. To make sure your advance directives reflect your wishes, revisit them every few years. Make changes that reflect your changing perspective. Then make sure your loved ones and providers have copies, so you’re all on the same page.

Making the right decisions

With advance care planning, you relieve a lot of that pressure on your loved ones because they already know what care you want in an emergency. All they have to do is request the care that matches your wishes.

While you may think these decisions can wait, they cannot. Advance care planning doesn’t just apply to senior care. It applies to care at whichever age you need it.

Get advance care planning help and more with Touro’s palliative and supportive care services.