For better or for worse, the current pandemic has changed how we live our lives. For many, the commute to work now involves shuffling from the bedroom to the living room. To get together with friends, we log onto Zoom. A simple trip to the grocery store means wearing a face mask, possibly gloves, and waiting in line. Outside, hand-sanitizers and physical distancing have become de rigueur.

Yet the virtual standstill of life as we knew it has given many of us newfound time to reconnect with others…and ourselves. It has sharpened our sense of how precious yet fragile life can be, of how important it is to express our love and appreciation of others, and of how critical it is to define what matters most in our own lives.

In the age of COVID-19, that’s a question that should be asked and answered, sooner than later.

What if I end up in the hospital, on a respirator and unable to speak for myself?
Quarantined and bombarded by daily counts of mounting infections and fatalities, more people have begun to wonder what could happen if they got really ill, from coronavirus or another serious disease. Who will take care of me and how? What if I end up in the hospital, on a respirator and unable to speak for myself?

Answering those questions and taking action now can make an enormous difference for you and your family…when and if the time arrives.

Planning for how you want to be cared for in a medical crisis – before it strikes
This July 16, Capital Caring Health is observing National Healthcare Decision Day (NHDD) and invite you to join us. The annual event aims to raise public awareness about the importance of advance care planning—that is, thinking about and planning for how you want to be cared for in a medical crisis, before it strikes. And in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, this year’s NHDD is timelier than ever before.

Advance care planning involves learning about the types of medical care decisions that might arise during an emergency or end-of-life situation. It answers such questions as what treatments and interventions you would or would not want under the circumstances, and then letting others know—both your family and your healthcare providers—about your preferences. It also documents who will speak for you when you can no longer speak for yourself.

Each year Capital Caring Health participates in NHDD and makes available tools, resources and forms to help you take action—whether for yourself or a loved one. There’s a kit to start and guide a discussion with family, friends, and caregivers; helpful advice on how to talk to your doctor about end-of-life wishes; and information on legally documenting your preferences through the proper forms.

Follow these steps to make sure treatment decisions are based on what you or family members want:

  1. Let your loved ones know your wishes – Talk openly about what matters to you and what you’d want most if you became seriously ill with coronavirus disease or any other advanced illness. Include your preferences for the extent  and types of treatments. Let the people closest to you know your wishes, for the time when you can no longer speak for yourself.
  2. Pick your person – Ask a friend, family member or other trusted person to become your medical care decision-maker for when and if you can’t make decisions for yourself.
  3. Make it official – Document your designated person—also known as a healthcare proxy, agent, or power of attorney—on an official state health care form or through an Advance Directive, a written health care instruction that specifies your wishes or names a proxy for you.

Ice Breakers and Conversation Starters 
While more people than ever are having conversations about end-of-life preferences as a result of living with the pandemic, this is still not an easy conversation to have—or even to start. To help, experts have come up with advice on “ice breakers” that let you raise the issue in a way that may be easier and more engaging. Find a list of suggested conversations starters here.

Through advance care planning, you’ll provide the guiding principles needed to confidently make decisions at a time when it really matters. Candid conversations can eliminate guesswork and deliver clarity, direction and peace of mind to those involved.

About Capital Caring Health
Capital Caring Health is the largest non-profit provider of elder health, advanced illness, hospice, and at-home care services for the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area. We provide quality care where people live, supporting dignified, independent aging. For more information, visit capitalcaring.org or call our 24-Hour Care Line at 1-800-869-2136.