Death: The Inevitable - Part 2
I don't know about you, but my parents used to give me warnings of what would happen if I didn't listen to what they said. Of course I would go against the grain and NOT listen, which would turn into a huge consequence. Before I would receive whatever the punishment was, my parents would say "I warned you!"
How often do we take warnings seriously though? When we get a tornado or hurricane warning, do we immediately run for safety, or wait around to see what's really going to happen? Warnings of global warming, how do we react? Warnings about the importance of planing for end-of-life care, how do we respond? See how I tried to work planning for end-of-life in there? Some people may look at warnings for end-of-life care with optimism bias, which means they have thoughts like "it will never happen to me." People with optimism bias see or hear about the horrific stories people have about not planning for end-of-life and the consequence of not being prepared, but believe it will never happen to them. How can one be so sure though? Especially if appropriate measures have not been taken. As promised in my last post, today I will be giving additional information related to Advance Care Directives. Let's get to it!
What Is An Advance Care Directive?
I love watching The Resident and lately the episodes have focused heavily on advance care directives, which are documents that outline your health care wishes and records who you have appointed to make health care decisions should you ever become incapacitated. Seeing TV shows about advance care directives confirms that I am on the right track with bringing this topic to your attention.
One piece of planning that we should all take part in, regardless of our age, is related to our health care. In the event that a tragic accident or terminal illness takes place and you become incapacitated, what would you like to happen? Some of us don't want to think about that because we think of it as speaking something negative over our lives, but let me tell you something....you should most definitely give it some thought!
There are two advance care directives that are commonly used: a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. Understanding the difference between these two and knowing the importance of having both will be very helpful as you begin to complete your advance care directives.
Living Will: this document can be as general or specific as you want it to be. The living will highlights what specific treatment you wish to receive and which treatments you would like to deny. What do you want? At times that question can be difficult to answer, especially when it deals with the end-of-life. Think for a minute, what measures do you want to be taken in order to sustain your life? Some individuals do not want to endure pain should they ever become ill, or involved in a tragic accident. In these cases they can specify the duration of treatment they wish to receive. I recently did a digital advance directive at MyDirectives and learned that even though some of the questions are extremely vague, you can add comments to give more details to what it is you do/do not want.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: this is who you appoint to make medical decisions on your behalf should you ever become incapacitated and unable to do it on your own. It is best to select someone that you trust. However, some people are placed in situations where they have to hire an agent to uphold the duties of a durable power of attorney for healthcare. Be sure if you appoint a friend or family member that you inform them of this in advance and make sure they're fully aware of what your expectations are.
*note* Your advance care directives can be revised and updated at any time.
Three Common Myths
There are a few myths directed towards advance care directives that I want to dispel:
1. An advance care directive means "no treatment."
Many people believe an advance care directive means treatment will not be given. However, an advance care directive, as mentioned earlier, gives individuals the opportunity to voice the level of care and duration of care they wish to receive, as well as under what conditions they'd want to cease treatment. People also believe that health care professionals will limit the type of treatment given because of advance care directives, but that's not the case. At any point, health care professionals can make a decision as what would be best for a patient. Advance care directives should be seen as a point of reference and is not an end all, be all document.
2. Advance care directives are for "old people."
If you've been following me for a while, you should know by now that this myth makes me roll my eyes SO hard!
I'm good for using the words "any age" in my posts because things can happen at ANY AGE. To wait until I get a certain age to see the importance of planning is beyoooond me. At 18, 21, 25, 30, 35, the list goes on. We should all see the need to think about hard topics such as end of life care, considering life is full of crazy surprises.
3. I'm giving up my rights to make personal health care decisions
Having an advance care directive does not mean you are giving up your rights, if anything it means you're exercising your rights and using your voice. So often we hear medical terms that are foreign to us and immediately disregard it as another "screwed" up entity of healthcare. I get it, healthcare industries have a bad reputation in a lot of the minds of people today, but guess what...reading is fuhn-duh-men-tl (fundamental). I'm not trying to get preachy, but the Bible says, "in all things get an understanding." Do your research and use your voice, homie!
Three Reasons to Have An Advance Care Directive
1. You have full control over your life and can make choices that will be best for you
2. Prevent possible confusion and potential disputes between loved ones
3. Eliminates the burden of family members being responsible to make tough decisions
The Important Conversation
We've talked about what an advance care directive is, reasons why we should have one, and dispelled myths (not in that specific order though lol). Now we can learn about different tools that are out there to help us. These tools assure us that we are not alone when it comes to planning and learning. Last year for Healthcare Decisions Week, I did a YouTube video about advance care directives. While working on this video, I googled hella ish and stumbled across the Conversation Project. (*side note* It would be cool to team up with these people one day with reference to advance care directives; just throwing that out into the atmosphere, ya know!)
The conversation project is a dope website and what I like most about it is they developed helpful toolkits to help individuals have the tough conversations related to end-of-life care. According to the 2018 Conversation Project National Survey, 92% of Americans have admitted to seeing the importance of expressing their wishes for end-of-life care, but only 32% have had the actual conversation. Let's increase that 32%!
Here are a few of their toolkits that could be of benefit to you and your loved ones:
1. The Conversation Starter Kit
2. How to choose a Health Care Proxy & How to Be a Health Care Proxy
3. Conversation Starter Kit for Loved Ones of People with Alzheimer's/Dementia
5. Pediatric Starter Kit: Having the Conversation with Your Seriously Ill Child
Check out this letter, titled "Dear Loved Ones: Listen to Your Mother"
The More You Know
As always, it is my hope that this post is helpful. I tried my hardest to keep it brief and to find the most beneficial links out there. When we are young, or healthy we tend to avoid topics of death because we see it as something that is "far away," but we have no idea when it will come knocking on our door. This post is not to say that many of you believe planning for end of life care is unnecessary, but some of you may need a little nudge to get the ball rolling. Take time out to view the links I've posted and really get a clear understanding of what advance care directives are, you'll be glad you did!
"Got my own mind. I want to make my own decisions when it has to do with my life. I wanna be the one in control." -Janet Jackson
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