Guest post by Ken Kephart, MD
Life can change in an instant—we know it, but it’s hard to imagine. And that makes planning for the unexpected—such as suddenly being unable to communicate—seem unnecessary. Fact is, more than half the time, people are unable to communicate their wishes during their last six months of life.
Preparation is important—for yourself, your loved ones and your health care team. That’s where advance care planning comes in. The goal is to decide whom you want to speak for you if you are unable, to talk about scenarios with your loved ones and, ultimately, to write down your wishes and share them with your doctor.
Facing the future
It’s much better to face the initial discomfort of talking about possible situations ahead of time rather than waiting until you are in the middle of a medical crisis where family members are forced to guess your preferences and wishes.
Advance care planning is a gift to your family. If and when a medical crisis strikes, think about how much easier it will be for your loved ones and caregivers to be able to say “We talked about this. I know what she wants,” instead of having to guess.
Research tells us that many people think about their wishes but never take the next steps—they don’t talk about the type of care they would want or write it down in a health care directive. We also know that, of the people who do talk about and write down their wishes, only a few share their preferences with their doctors.
It’s always too soon until it’s too late.
Start the process
Advance Care Planning is for anyone 18 and older. If you are ready to begin:
An unexpected illness or injury may cause you to be unable to participate in important treatment decisions.
I encourage you to make your voice heard in the care you want to receive.
Ken Kephart is medical director for Fairview Geriatric Services, Fairview Partners and Fairview Senior Services and lead physician for the Honoring Choices Minnesota advance care planning project within Fairview Health Network.