Written with Gary Dodd
There’s a lot of uncertainty in healthcare today including changes to the Affordable Care Act and changes at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As healthcare professionals, we hope we are moving to a world of alternative payment models that will be focused on quality of care, not quantity of care. Palliative medicine, whether practiced by a generalist or a specialist, is an imperative and integral part of the care system. It matters to patients to be able to have frank and honest discussions with their providers about what will happen to them as their illness progresses and to be assured adequate management of symptoms to support their desired quality of life.
But regardless of what happens in Washington, we are not powerless. This week is dedicated to making our own healthcare decisions, taking back the power for how we want our care to progress and what we want the end of our lives to look like.
Discussions about end of life care are no one’s favorite subject, but in the fog of grief, those conversations become priceless.
This week is dedicated to National Healthcare Decisions, and we urge you to broach the uncomfortable subject, to give your family a gift they may not need today but will most certainly treasure later.
- Educate yourself about the decisions that you may need to make about healthcare in the future. Study and understand the risks and benefits of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the use of ventilators, artificial hydration and nutrition, and comfort care. If you have any questions, make an appointment to discuss your end of life goals with your healthcare provider.
- Engage a person you trust to be your surrogate decision maker in case you are not able to make medical decisions at any point in the future. The person you appoint to be your proxy for healthcare must to be informed of your personal values and desires for the type of healthcare you want to receive if you are ever unable to communicate your decisions on your own.
- Ease the burden on your loved ones by voicing your healthcare preferences in writing. Many resources for completing advanced directives can be found online. Make sure you adhere to your state government’s guidelines. Then, provide a copy of your documents that express your healthcare decisions to your medical providers and the appropriate people in your relationship network.
- Review your plan each year, or as your health status changes. Make updates and share them as necessary.
On this National Healthcare Decisions Day—today—take control of your health future. Spend time thinking about your future needs and share your decisions with your family and your healthcare providers. Consider this an investment in your peace and theirs.
Gary W. Dodd, ANP-BC, M.S.N, M.Div., is a Board-Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner with Aspire Healthcare promoting holistic care.