Preparing for the End of Life

Advance Directives

Every patient admitted to our hospice program is given written information regarding his or her right to refuse medical care and issue advance directives. An Advance Directive is a written instruction that expresses your wishes regarding healthcare in advance of the time you need it. This instruction is provided to healthcare staff when you are in need of a treatment decision but are unable to make that decision. The intent of the advance directive is to enhance your control over medical treatment decisions. All of us providing healthcare services are responsible for following your wishes.

There are generally two types of advance directives for hospice:

  1. Living will — You personally direct the course of life-sustaining treatment.
  2. Durable power of attorney for healthcare — You direct another person to make that decision on your behalf.

The regulations regarding advance directives differ from state to state. Your admission packet contains the information relative to the laws of your state. Almost every state requires the directive to be witnessed by two individuals who are not relatives, who are not beneficiaries of your estate and who are not your healthcare providers. The directives should be notarized and given to your physician, with copies to your hospice care provider and your family or a friend.

Advance directives can be changed or revoked. Generally, all states allow you to revoke either document by advising your physician or any other witness of your intention to withdraw the advance directive.

What else should I be doing beyond a living will?

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, there has rightly been a lot of focus on the immediate and urgent needs of those suffering with COVID-19 and their caregivers.  Something else is also happening.  People of all ages – from grandparents, to parents, to adult grandchildren – are giving thought to what would be most important during a time of serious illness or health crisis.  What would happen if you need care in the hospital?  Who would make decisions for you if you can’t? What could be done to protect your human dignity and maintain comfort?  These are important questions, and the coronavirus is prompting many people to take action.

Our partnered nonprofit, Aging with Dignity, has spent nearly 25 years helping families have these kinds of discussions, and thanks to Five Wishes, America’s most popular and easy-to-understand and use advance care planning program, many know exactly what their loved one’s wishes are.

Five Wishes is changing the way we talk about advance care planning. It’s more than just a document. It’s about connecting families, communicating with healthcare providers, and showing your community what it means to care for one another. With life coming to a near standstill in America, it’s time to have these important conversations with the people who mean the most to you. To ask them about the kind of medical care they want or don’t want in times of serious illness.  If you haven’t had those conversations yet, now is the time.

Our prayers are with the families currently dealing with COVID-19 and other serious illnesses, particularly those who have lost a loved one.  All of us in some way have been impacted by the uncertainties related to this dangerous virus.  For some, it means canceled travel plans or events.  For others, it means lost work.  For those in healthcare, it means bracing for unknown clinical challenges.  For families with loved ones in senior care facilities, it means limited visits. No matter how you are affected, you have a chance now to be prepared in case you or your loved ones face serious illness.  So get a Five Wishes and seek out the people who matter most to you, and start with the following messages:

  • There’s been something on my mind and now is a good time to bring it up
  • You matter to me and I care about you
  • You can count on me to be there for you
  • I want to do the right things for you when you need them the most
  • I don’t know your wishes so please tell me them so I can honor them whether I agree with them or not.

Use any one of those statements as an opening to a conversation if the subject turns to the coronavirus or related issues. If that approach doesn’t work, go to the Five Wishes conversation tips to get the ball rolling.

AseraCare is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we utilize Five Wishes.