For some families, this subject is almost taboo but it is so important. The term refers to planning for end-of-life decisions and the challenges that the family may face. It does include more than just end-of-life wishes and should include conversations between the elderly person, medical providers, and family members. Advance care planning also covers emotional and spiritual aspects of the aging process.
The issues that often arise with end of life include being so ill or impaired that the elderly adult is not able to make their own medical decisions or needing the assistance of medical equipment such as a ventilator to help keep them alive. Having a defined guide, based on the wishes of the parent, allows the family and medical professionals to provide care and support without overreaching the personal desires of the elder.
Advance care planning includes understanding the types of decisions that may be needed if the senior is too sick to make those decisions; understanding his or her preferences for those situations; and communicating those to his or her family and physicians.
You may be familiar with the terms “DNR”, a document that indicates Do Not Resuscitate, or “Advance Directive”, a directive on your wishes if you become incapacitated or unable to communicate. The Advance Directive usually appoints a person who can become the legal health care representative, if needed.
Another document that the elderly person may want to complete is known as POLST, an abbreviation for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. A POLST document gives healthcare professionals the details on what that person wants and does not want. A POLST is not technically an advance directive, but is really what medical professionals are asking about when they inquire about an advance directive. They’re trying to determine exactly what the elderly person wants during end-of-life care or during a medical crisis. To learn more about POLST, visit the national website at www.polst.org. New Mexico is a state that recognizes the POLST program.
The staff at BeeHive Home Care of New Mexico understand these discussions are not easy. Often our clients have already addressed advance care planning but many have not. We are here to support both the aging adult and their family members. If we can help you, please give us a call.