“Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” That’s good advice under the best of circumstances. But in the era of Covid-19, it ranks right up there with washing your hands, staying inside, practicing “social distancing”…and being ready for a medical crisis.
No doubt about it, the coronavirus has made these difficult and anxious times for everyone, everywhere. But for those over the age of 65 or with underlying health conditions, daily life seems especially fraught with questions and the unknown: What happens if I get sick? Who will take care of me and how? And most frightening, what if I end up in the hospital?
While none of us can foresee the future, there are actions you can take right now to help you, your family members and others regain some control in this time of uncertainty.
One of them is to observe National Healthcare Decision Day (NHDD), a public awareness campaign 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 this year’s observance on April 16—smack in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak—couldn’t be more timely.
Basically, advance care planning involves learning about the types of medical care decisions that might arise during an emergency or end-of-life scenario; considering 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.
Getting people to discuss such issues is always difficult. Yet many people now realize it’s a talk they need to have on their own behalf and to help others, sooner versus later.
Toward that end, Capital Caring Health, which has participated in NHDD since its inception, has the tools and resources you can use to start and guide a discussion with family, friends and caregivers. Also included is helpful advice on how to talk to your doctor about end-of-life wishes, as well as information on legally documenting your preferences so that treatment decisions are based on what you want.
The following summarizes the more important steps:
- Know where your loved ones stand
There may be a time when you have to help the people closest to you get medical care if they become seriously sick with coronavirus disease or any other advanced illness. You need to understand what is important to them so you can speak on their behalf if they can’t.
- 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. Your designated person may also be known as a “health care proxy,” “health care agent” or “power of attorney for health care.”
- Make it official
Document that person on an official state health care proxy/agent/power of attorney form or through an Advance Directive. An “Advance Directive” is a term for any written health care instruction that specifies your wishes or names a proxy for you.
If for some reason you are unable to make it official, make sure the person you choose knows what is important to you and what care you would want to receive.
- Talk about it
Talk openly about what matters to you and what you’d want most if you became seriously ill with coronavirus disease or any other serious illness, including your preferences for the amount and types of treatments.
You may not be able to predict every choice you’ll have to make, but you can give others the guiding principles to confidently make decisions for you. But don’t leave them guessing. Open conversations can provide clarity, direction and reassurance to both you and your designate.
Capital Caring Health is here to provide the support and information you need to get through the current outbreak and cope with special issues and concerns. Our website also provides up-to-date information on COVID-19 to stay safe and describes how we have temporarily adapted our services and support. Lastly, if think you or a loved one could benefit from healthcare services delivered at home, especially now, please check out Primary Care at Home to see if it might be right for you.