‘Just Talk About It!’: Importance of Advance Care Planning

By: Amy Kowinsky, RD, LDN and Stephanie Stanley

Advance care planning is an important part of health and wellness and can be one of the ways in which we can take care of those we love and who love us.

Did you know that:

• 90 percent of people say talking with their loved ones about end of life care is important
• Less than 30 percent of people have actually done so

Congratulations on taking the important first step to learn more information about advance care planning and advance directives! Advance care planning is the process of taking the time now to plan for future medical care in case you become too sick to make your own decisions. The process has two parts:

The first is to choose a HEALTH CARE AGENT, or the person who would make decisions for your care if you became unable to do so yourself.

This person could be your spouse or your children, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be a friend or neighbor. As you think about who would be your best health care agent, ask yourself the following questions: Whom would you trust to make your wishes heard? Whom would you trust to follow your wishes even if they did not agree with them? Whom would you trust to make sure you get the care you want in the setting you want?

The second part is to think about your VALUES and make decisions about the TREATMENTS you would and wouldn’t want based on them.

There are no right or wrong choices — your choices depend on your values and your life experiences. Some people say life is worth living only if they can take care of themselves. Some say life is worth living if they can talk to friends and loved ones. Others say life is always worth living no matter how sick they are. What matters is not WHAT you choose but that you do, in fact, choose —and you tell others what these choices are.

Thinking about being sick can be uncomfortable to think about, so many of us put off the conversation or sometimes never bring it up. However, the easiest time to think about it is before an illness or crisis, when you have time for discussion and reflection with your loved ones. By taking the time to go through this process, you can promote peace of mind in a difficult situation if your loved ones are ever called upon to make decisions for you.

Start the conversation today and just talk about it. To help facilitate that conversation, the public is invited to view a webcast that will provide more information beginning at noon, Friday, April 24. Those interested can go to UPMC’s Advance Care Planning website at that time. Also available at that website are copies of the Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive, as well as more tips for advance care planning.

You and your family will find relief knowing that your wishes are clear and that things are in order.