Editor’s Note: This post is the second in a two-part series about the importance of discussing a patient’s wishes during the advance care planning process. This part speaks more to patients and families while the first part was directed toward doctors and caregivers.
Your mom, your spouse, your best friend tells you, “I have an appointment for advance care planning. Please come with me.” How do you respond? “I’m busy. Why should I take the time?” or “Thanks for inviting me.”
If you are fortunate enough to be asked, take the time to learn from the encounter! Your loved one, your friend is asking you to be part of a very special conversation. You will experience a deepened relationship with that person as well as a better understanding of your own thoughts and wishes for end of life care.
Seeing Through the End of Life Veil
For reasons best known to itself, American society has put a veil around end of life decisions and around death itself. It is a life event that we are all guaranteed to experience but how prepared are we for the reality?
The expectations placed on modern health care include extending life far into the future but, no matter how advanced medicine has become, the ratio between being born and dying remains the same!
The concept of advance care planning (and the discussion that is a vital part of the process) is to provide an opportunity for someone to explore and document their beliefs and their decisions for end of life care that reflects their individuality and their concept of self. The fact that you have been invited to participate in this conversation indicates the important role you play in that person’s life.
Am I Doing the Right Thing?
Planning the types of decisions a person would like to make or have made for them is actually a gift to their families or close friends. They are taking away the question of “Am I doing the right thing?” and replacing it with the knowledge that “This is exactly what he/she wants.”
For families who have lost loved ones, one of the biggest questions is “did I follow his/her wishes?” For someone who has participated in the discussion, the answer is “Yes.”