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Op-ed: Have That Conversation About Your Future Care

Posted on 04/16/2013

NJ.comWith National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16) upon us, now is the best time for all of us, but especially senior citizens, to have “the conversation” with our loved ones and our doctors about advance care planning.

“The conversation” is the most critical part of advance care planning (ACP), and can remove some of the challenges of dying and make that time of transition more about what it should be — living.

Advanced care planning involves reflecting on your goals, values and treatment preferences in the context of your current health and possible future situations and communicating those goals to loved ones and doctors; identifying someone to make decisions on your behalf in case you can’t; documenting your decisions; and revisiting these preferences as circumstances and feelings change.

You’ve likely heard of some of the most common advance care planning documents — living wills, health care proxy, advance directives — and the soon to be available POLST (Practitioner Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment).

The consequences of not having an advance care plan are significant. For instance, despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans surveyed say they want to die at home, the reality is that only 30 percent actually do.

And you don’t have to start from scratch. Many “how-to” resources exist to assist you in this process. Material and information are available through Five Wishes, The Conversation Project, The American Bar Association and Engage with Grace, among others. Many of these tools are available for free.

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