Starting the dialogue…in the Critical Care Unit and/or hospital

Even without having conversations about advance health care planning, people get sick or find themselves in a crisis. When health care providers talk to families, it can be hard for families because they are unsure what decisions to make or how their loved one would make decisions.

It can be helpful for families to make a list of questions to ask the medical staff and take notes as they hear information. Providers offer a lot of information, and it can be difficult to remember all the information and your questions. 

Some questions to have with the doctors may be:

  • Why is my loved one in the hospital/emergency room/critical care unit?
  • What has happened since then?
  • What other medical problems do they currently have?
  • What treatments are being given or are being planned?
  • What are the possible outcomes of each treatment?
  • Are there other treatment options?
  • What are the burdens of the treatment as compared to the benefits?
  • What decisions do we have to make right now and what decisions will we have to make later?
  • What gives value to life for our loved one? How would that be changed with the different treatment options available?

It is wise to have a family meeting to get everyone on the same page with the current situation. Hospital staff can help obtain the key players needed to be there, such as:

  • Primary provider and other consulting medical staff
  • Nurses
  • Social worker
  • Spiritual support person

Please see Create Your Advance Directive for instructions on how to begin.