Advance Care Planning is getting an upgrade. For years our healthcare system has perpetuated the circumstances of crisis and trauma before asking a person (or their medical proxy) for their medical preferences and wishes. The Current focus of Advance Care Planning appears to be only on end of life decisions and the forms required instituting a person’s “directives”. Sometimes a person’s directives are not taken into account before a medical professional will begin treatment. These actions can be confusing and difficult; especially when experiencing a health crisis.
Filling out a form does not constitute preparing for a conversation involving medical decision-making. This has become a common expectation in our healthcare system when a person is asked the yes or no question; “Do You Have Advance Directives?” This approach presumes knowledge and personal involvement that may not be correct.
There is a solution, a simple one, which is preferred by many but known to only a few. The
“upgrade” for Advance Care Planning starts with recording on paper, what you want people to know about you that makes you a unique individual, a person before becoming a patient. These declarations are clear, before engaging in medical decision-making, we need to understand how each of us make decisions in various areas of our life. Finding the right choices for ourselves involve how we communication with one another, what our life experiences have been in the past, how we want to be treated when we need to make a life decision. All of these aspects of our lives and personalities influence and guide our decision-making process each day of our lives.
Creating a Statement of Medical Preferences empowers us to put who we are as a person on the page so another person can know who we are and what matters most to us. These preferences then guide decisions about our healthcare and medical choices. The benefits of upgrading how we prepare our Advance Care Planning documents grow as we continue to have ongoing conversations about our health and the type of care when want for any of our medical decisions. Then our conversation carries on with doctors, families, friends, until there is a need for a particular Advance Directive form, of which there are multiple documents designated for end of life decisions and care.
Advance Care Planning does not need to start with end of life decisions; it can begin with documenting what is happening in our lives today. As we learn and grow, experience our lives which includes conversations with our doctors and healthcare choices and decisions. Then medical decision-making becomes a natural movement that flows throughout our adult lives and we will know when we want to prepare our plans and decisions for end of life care with medical services.