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One of the greatest gifts you can give your family, is to have an advance care directive.
Every year, April 16 is the day set aside as National Health Care Decision Day. An initiative of “The Conversation Project”, the goal is to educate the public about the importance of advance care planning. It is a reminder to all of us how important it is to let your family and healthcare providers know which medical procedures you would want if you became ill and unable to communicate your wishes.

Unfortunately, every year families are forced to make decisions about medical interventions like life support and feeding tubes. Without a “conversation of your life”, loved ones have no idea what someone’s wishes are when mind, body and spirit are exhausted. Without a conversation of your life, family members may be at odds on how to go forward with, or end, medical interventions.

These are difficult conversations to have and often a neutral third party, such as a Springpoint at Home Aging Life Care Advisor™/Care Manager, can help guide you to tools which allow you to have these difficult conversations and give clear and consistent information to your family and healthcare provider.

The landscape of advance directives is often confusing because there are several legal documents that can be put in place. First, a Living Will, which is also known as an Advance Directive, allows you to express your wishes for medical treatment and will be followed if you are unable to provide instruction when medical decisions need to be made.

Several different living will forms are available on the internet, but the one most commonly used is “Five Wishes.” Not only is it a legal document, but it is also a good starting point for an individual to begin to think about what they would like to happen if they cannot speak for themselves. Because it includes the ability to express personal and spiritual wishes along with medical and legal, it is a gentle way to open a conversation with family members that is often difficult to approach.

The Health Care Proxy Directive (Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare) is an advance directive that gives the authority to one person who is named as your healthcare representative to make medical decisions in case you cannot. However, neither an advance directive nor the healthcare proxy are doctors’ orders.  Therefore, a POLST (Physician Order of Life Sustaining Treatment) is recommended in New Jersey.

If you are not sure what each of the medical interventions mean, you can consult with your doctor as part of your yearly wellness visit. If you have Medicare Part B, doctors or another qualified healthcare professional can now bill Medicare for a 30-minute Advance Care conversation and a 30-minute follow-up. A POLST can be completed only with a doctor.  It is a 2-page checklist that reflects what may be in the legal directives, but it is shorter, simplified and, more importantly, it is a doctor’s order that cannot be overlooked if you want a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate).

Completing an advance care directive is the first step, the next one and the most difficult can be the conversation you have with your family about your wishes. Too often these documents can get lost in the hospital paperwork. You want your family to have a copy to ensure staff understands and abides by your wishes and that they don’t try to influence the medical staff to take measures you don’t want to prolong your life.

Helping you to find advance directive resources and helping you to find ways to approach the topic with family are things that Springpoint at Home’s Aging Life Care Advisors™/Care Managers are eminently qualified for through their training, years of work and ethics. They understand that the time to have these conversations is when you are healthy and before a crisis. And they know that having advance directive documents in place is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family.


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