How to Give Yourself and Your Loved Ones Peace-of-Mind
Today’s busy lifestyle revolves around planning. We organize our workday and weekend activities… schedule doctors’ appointments and get-togethers…make lists for grocery shopping and other errands…arrange savings plans for college or retirement. Whether it’s for tomorrow or years in advance, planning is a proven pathway toward achieving our goals.
Yet there’s one important area of our lives that we often neglect when planning for the future:
Our healthcare! Have you thought about your own care preferences in advance of any change in your health and shared them?
Admittedly, there’s a reason most of us tend to avoid asking, or answering, this question. No one is eager to think about or discuss a potential accident, serious medical diagnosis, or other unanticipated health- or life-threatening situation. But if that happens, no one wants to guess or make last minute healthcare decisions for loved ones, either.
To get you started on a path to planning and taking control, Capital Caring Health (CCH) has ideas and resources to help you and your family begin the conversations to do so. Such preparation—known as Advance Care Planning (ACP)—is often thought of as end-of-life care, but it’s really much more than that. Thinking about how you want to be cared for and sharing your values and preferences applies to any health issues that might arise…now through one’s last days.
Interestingly, research that shows those aged 28 and younger are highly interested in ACP and “get it.” For them, resources and guides are tools for living—and they’d really like their parents and grandparents to get onboard, too.
So why not use this year’s National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), observed every April 16, to begin to think about what you want for your future? Experts at The Conversation Project (TCP) have developed easy-to-use guides that offer tips, practical advice, and examples. And no matter what you decide, you can always change your mind any time you want!
Start the Conversation, Begin Planning
While we may not like thinking about our own aging or admit that we are mortal, almost everyone wants a say in how they are cared for. The COVID pandemic brought this conflict into sharp focus, with many people deciding they’d rather be prepared to share their own care preferences in advance of getting seriously ill, and wanting their family members to do the same.
By candidly talking about what matters to you and informing others, you take the first step in controlling your future care. You’ll provide the guiding principles needed to confidently make decisions at a time when it makes a difference. Doing so can eliminate guesswork and deliver clarity, direction, and peace of mind to those involved.
There are many ways to start a conversation whether you want to talk about your own wishes or raise the question with someone else, like a parent. The good news is that there is no right way to start—you’re unique, so choose what works for you. Here are a few suggestions:
Watch something together to spark a conversation
When it comes to talking about the health care you may or may not want, or to ask someone else about their own care wishes, watching a program that addresses the subject is a good way to start. The Conversation Project has compiled a list of light-hearted to thought-provoking TV shows, movies, and documentaries as a way to introduce the topic. Their list of “10 Things to Watch Together to Jumpstart a Conversation” includes select episodes of The Simpsons, Blackish, Grey’s Anatomy, the Oscar winning movie The Farewell and more, along with descriptions of each.
Do something you both enjoy
You can also use something that you and a loved one already enjoy doing together as an opportunity to have a conversation about how you’d like to be cared for in the future. Whether that’s hiking, gardening, or meeting for coffee after a yoga class, there’s no wrong time or place to start a conversation about your healthcare values.
Have a family get together
On the occasion of her father’s 85th birthday, one woman decided to gather several generations for a celebratory family barbecue…and to ask about the healthcare he would want. That question prompted other members of the extended family to share their own thoughts, as shown on this video that appeared on ABC Evening News with Diane Sawyer. If you decide to go this route, it’s probably a good idea to let the other participants know what you’d like to discuss beforehand.
Here are some icebreakers to help you start a conversation.
Pick your person, Safeguard your choices
Having conversations about your values and care preferences is important. So, too, is selecting someone you trust and are close to—a family member or best friend—to be your healthcare “proxy.” They help make sure your wishes are followed if you are no longer able to speak for yourself. This FAQ answers common questions about the role.
To illustrate what you might want to consider when you “pick your person”— such as whether they’ll pay attention to what YOU want and will be there when needed—TCP offers examples of what to look for and what to avoid in this light-hearted YouTube video.
Use the Resources that Work for You
Capital Caring Health has created an entire section of our website devoted to resources to help you and loved ones think about and express your healthcare values and preferences and, when ready, document them. These put you in charge and are appropriate for a range of healthcare issues for current care planning through end-of-life care.
- What Matters to Me Workbook originally developed to help those recently diagnosed with a serious illness, it can help anyone trying to decide their care preferences.
- Conversation Starter Guides include examples, practical advice, and tips for caregivers. The guides are available in English, Spanish and Chinese with an English audio version. There are also special guides for loved ones caring for someone with Alzheimer’s/other forms of dementia and for seriously ill children.
- Your Guide to Choosing A Healthcare Proxy and Your Guide to Being a Healthcare Proxy provide details on what factors to consider and practical information whether you are selecting a proxy or have agreed to be one.
- How to Talk to Your Healthcare Team offers guidance so you can keep your medical team in- the-know about how you want to direct your own healthcare.
When you’re ready, we have also posted all the legal forms you’ll need to document your care preferences and to designate your healthcare proxy whether you live in Washington D.C, Virginia, or Maryland. And remember, you can make changes any time you want—it’s entirely up to you!
Ultimately, whether you’re practical or the philosophical type, you likely already do a great deal of planning in your life for things both big and small. So on this year’s National Healthcare Decisions Day, why not add current care/advanced care planning to your to-do list? It’s never too early to plan for the future you want…and will give both you and your loved ones’ peace of mind.
If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact us at 800-869-2136. Capital Caring Health’s specially-trained staff are available to help you with any part of the process.