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The Cycles of Life Part 6

Posted on: 2016 08 26

The Cycles of Life 6For some people, the financial planning piece is the hardest part. For others, the health care piece is more difficult. You probably have a good idea about how your loved one feels. Either way the health care planning is equally as important, especially if there is a chronic illness present. Again, be gentle, yet firm; be empathetic yet realistic; be compassionate yet solution oriented. Be kind and be patient, this is hard. Communication continues to be the key/foundation to knowledge and knowledge is power.   If you have been following the previous posts, you already have created the foundation for the “official” health care planning paperwork. All of those ongoing conversations with your loved ones about their health and future goals should hopefully make this a bit easier. Now it is time to convert those conversations to paper on an Advance Directive for Health Care. It may be called something different where you live. Documents and laws vary state to state and typically a lawyer is not needed to complete it. Another document to fill out is a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)/COLST or POLST (Clinician or Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) Order. This is the Vermont DNR/COLST with instructions. Here is a comprehensive tip sheet from the Family Caregiver Alliance website regarding these documents.   I find the Vermont Ethics Network booklet entitled Taking Steps: Planning for Critical Health Care Decisions very helpful as it provides thorough explanations and instructions plus worksheets to help gather thoughts and feelings. Their website also has several forms you can download. They provide an overview of the basics for health care decisions and advance directives here.   Ultimately these discussions are truly about end-of-life issues. If you need additional resources to help you and your loved ones you may want to check out The Conversation Project:

“The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. Too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain. It’s time to transform our culture so we shift from not talking about dying to talking about it. It’s time to share the way we want to live at the end of our lives. And it’s time to communicate about the kind of care we want and don’t want for ourselves. 

We believe that the place for this to begin is at the kitchen table—not in the intensive care unit—with the people we love, before it’s too late.

Together we can make these difficult conversations easier. We can make sure that our own wishes and those of our loved ones are expressed and respected. If you’re ready to join us, we ask you: Have you had the conversation?”

In Vermont, we have a great resource that partners with the Vermont Ethics Network called Start the Conversation. For New Hampshire, they are here. These organizations offer downloadable conversation starter kits plus videos and lots of tips and good information. The Conversation Project also has a new resource for families and loved ones of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementias. No doubt these are difficult conversations to have BUT it is imperative you have them and continue having them as needed because things change. Once these documents are finished everyone will have peace of mind from knowing legal matters and medical preferences are spelled out. You won’t have to make a decision in crises-mode because you have been empowered to make an informed decision based on your loved ones wishes and goals. After seeing your aging loved ones completing these legal and health care planning documents, you and your spouse need to do them as well. You now know just how critical they are. Update them as you yourself age and begin to have discussions with your children (if appropriate, of course) about your wishes and goals. As Start the Conversation wisely says, 

“Planning for end-of-life care before it becomes a worry is as important as all the other life plans you have made. Having a plan in place in advance makes it easier for you, your doctor and your loved ones if you are unable to tell them your health care choices because of an injury or serious illness. Every moment is precious-especially at the end-of-life. Starting the conversation early can ensure that your choices are heard. It also means that when time becomes short, it can be spent doing what you enjoy most and not making last minute decisions. Talk about your wishes while you are in good health so you will be prepared. A health crises can happen to anyone at any time. Don’t wait. Start the conversation today. It’s a gift.”

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