Old Friends

What Is Advance Care Planning?

By Tracy Hansen, APRN, FNP

Today, we are going to discuss something that makes many of us uncomfortable…. Talking about not if, but when we move from this life to the next, and what our wishes are for that time.

Consider the following scenario:

Pearl is a 96-year-old resident of a long-term care facility. She is wheelchair bound and requires assistance to take care of her daily needs. She still has her mind; however, she is a bit forgetful at times. She is much loved by both her children and grandchildren. Pearl suffers a stroke. It leaves her unable to move on the left side. She can not swallow without choking. She interacts minimally.

· What are Pearl’s options?

· Should the family transfer her to a large facility to do all they can to intervene with the stroke?

· Should she get a feeding tube, since she can’t swallow?

· How does Pearl’s family know her wishes?

Most Americans would want to die at home surrounded by loved ones, without pain, treated with dignity, and have our loved ones supported and cared for through our dying process. Lastly, most would want their wishes honored.

Unfortunately, the reality is this; approximately 2/3 of Americans die in an institution. Many of those will be in the isolated environment of intensive care. Families are not supported emotionally or financially.

Now, I am going to introduce the topic of end of life planning; this is also known as advance care planning. Essentially, this is making one’s wishes known as to the measures they would like to have when the end of life presents. With end of life planning, one can write out what they want or don’t want when they are unable to advocate for themselves. With this type of planning, you can also designate someone to make health care decisions for you when you can’t do so for yourself.

You may be wondering about Pearl… so what happened? Pearl is my beloved grandmother. She died days after her stroke surrounded by those who loved her. We celebrated her life shortly thereafter and we think her wishes were honored.

We all have an end point, however, when that end presents itself is only known by our Creator.

Medicare believes in the importance of advance care planning and will cover visits to discuss end of life planning with your health care provider (other insurers are also following suite). The number of visits are not numbered as one’s health status can change at a movements notice. Let us at Murray County Medical Center help you through these difficult conversations and help you to plan for when the time comes for you! Call to make an appointment today.