Imagine the unthinkable. You suddenly find yourself at a critical point in your life, unable to speak due to an illness or sudden life-changing event. How will people know what health treatments you want? Who would express those wishes for you? What quality of life is sustainable for you and what does that mean?
Thanks to medical advances, people live longer, even with severe health conditions. Medical treatments to extend life can lead to complicated questions about the benefits and length of such treatments, the likelihood of success and even how the treatment will affect a person’s quality of life. Without advance care planning, family members can be left to guess what their loved one would want, which may cause some conflict and even guilt about the decisions made. That is why advance care planning is so important.
Most people understand the value of developing a plan for such things as vacations or retirement to ensure everything is in place. Advance care planning is just that: a plan. But in this case, it’s a plan for the sunset of life. It involves a discussion between you, your doctor, and your family to identify a decision maker(s), clarify treatment preferences and develop a plan for the future that focuses on your quality of life.
Creating a plan is also a way for you to give a special gift to your family: A gift of knowing your plan so they aren’t left with the burden of deciding your future.
The best time to make an advance care plan is now. Regardless of your age or current state of health, it’s important to create your plan because the future is never certain and anything can happen at any time.
Advance care planning includes:
- Getting information on types of life-sustaining treatments available.
- Deciding what types of treatment you would or would not want should you be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness.
- Sharing your personal values with loved ones.
- Completing useful documents that put your wishes into writing regarding preferences for treatment should you be unable to speak for yourself. Review the Advance Care Planning: Making Your Wishes Known Booklet and An Advance Health Care Directive Form for more information.
Advance care planning services are offered to patients in St. James through Mayo Clinic Health System. For more information about advance care planning and how to make an advance care plan, please visit the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato Advance Care Planning Page or call 507-375-8654.