Advance Care Planning-Navigating Life's Choices

Advance Care Planning: Getting your affairs in order and making sure your voice is heard. 90% of people say talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27% have actually done so.

For help with Advance Care Planning, call (402) 941-1699.

In life, we provide directions for everything – the recipe for grandma’s strawberry shortcake, how to get to that cute off-the-beaten-path place for lunch, for putting that bookshelf together. Why wouldn’t we provide directions for our lives?

If something unexpected happened to you, who would know your wishes for medical care? Would anyone know where to find important legal documents? What about your bank accounts and insurance policies?

Advance care planning helps your loved ones make the choices you would want and provides the information they would need in the event you become sick or disabled. Planning ahead can minimize stress, financial problems and family strife.

Advance care planning is about planning for the “what ifs” that may occur across the entire lifespan – it’s not just for older adults approaching the end of their lives. People of any age can become gravely ill or have a serious accident.

An advance care plan can be developed at any time, whether you are sick or well, and can be changed or updated at any time. Ideally, you do this planning while you are healthy, have mental capacity and are not stressed by bad news about your health.

Healthcare Choices

One aspect of advance care planning is about doing what you can to ensure that medical treatment you receive is consistent with your wishes and preferences, should you be unable to make your own decisions or speak for yourself. It can help alleviate unnecessary suffering, improve quality of life and provide better understanding of the decision-making challenges facing an individual and their caregivers.

Healthcare choices to consider

  • Do you want to take part in making decisions about your care and treatment?
  • Do you always want to know the truth about your condition?
  • Do you want your finances taken into account when treatment decisions are being made?
  • Would you want palliative care, which offers comfort measures that focus on relief of suffering and control of symptoms so you can do what is most important to you?
  • How do you feel about using life-sustaining measures in the face of terminal illness? Do you have strong feelings about certain medical treatments (such as mechanical breathing, CPR, feeding tube, kidney dialysis, intensive care, chemo or radiation therapy)?
  • Would you want to avoid certain treatments only if death was certain?
  • Would you want certain treatments if used to prolong the dying process?
  • Would you accept certain treatments to lessen pain?
  • What will be important to you when you are dying?
  • Would you prefer at-home hospice care or would you prefer to be in a hospital?
  • Do you want to be an organ donor?

Legal Choices

There are many different types of legal documents that can help you plan how your affairs will be handled in the future. Many of these documents have names that sound alike, so make sure you are getting the documents you want.

  • Medical Power of Attorney (or Healthcare Proxy) legally authorizes someone to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to make these decisions for yourself.
  • Financial Power of Attorney legally authorizes someone to make financial decisions for you when you are unable to make these decisions for yourself.
  • Living Will is a legal document that specifies what life-sustaining procedures should or should not be performed if you have a terminal condition or are in a persistent vegetative state.
  • Last Will and Testament legally describes how you wish your personal effects to be distributed after your death.
  • Do Not Resuscitate/Intubate
    • Resuscitation, known as CPR, provides oxygen/blood circulation to vital organs until spontaneous respirations and circulation can be regained.
    • Tracheal Intubation or Intubation is the insertion of a flexible plastic tube into the windpipe to maintain as open airway.

Financial Choices

In order to best care for you, a person of your choosing needs to know if you have the following and where to locate the information:

  • Bank accounts
  • Insurance information (life, health, long-term care, home, car)
  • Credit cards
  • Investments
  • Paperless accounts
  • Mortgages, loans or debts
  • Trusts
  • Personal property (real estate, rental property, cars, boats, etc.)
  • Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid information

Talking About Your Wishes

Decisions should be based on your wishes and values, but they need not be made alone. Conversations with those you love and care for are important and can help you think through these decisions. It’s especially helpful to talk about your thoughts, beliefs, and values with your healthcare proxy. This will help prepare them to make medical decisions that best reflect your values. For older adults, families and close friends these conversations may be tough to initiate, but they are valuable and necessary for all involved.

The Nebraska Health Network has a detailed guide to walk you through some of these decisions and prepare for the planning conversation.

Get some help starting the conversation at The Conversation Project.