The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 89 percent of people believe doctors should discuss end-of-life care with their patients, but only 17 percent have had these conversations.
Medicare’s end-of-life counseling policy may find acceptance
Making such decisions is always difficult, but we need to do that. And then we need to use the power we have to inform our health-care providers and loved ones of our preferences, through advance directives and naming an agent to speak for us if we can’t speak for ourselves.
The process starts with making your wishes for your care known to your family and your health-care providers. You may want to talk with trusted friends or people in your faith community. These conversations will relieve loved ones and health-care providers of the need to guess what you want done and not done if you ever face a medical crisis and can’t speak for yourself. Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to make your end-of-life wishes known in case you can’t communicate them yourself, and empower a trusted family member or friend to speak for you. This person, or agent, should understand your wishes and feel comfortable making important decisions for you.
A 2014 report by the Institute of Medicine identified a pressing need for public education and engagement about advance-care directives on the societal level, to build support for public and institutional policies that ensure high-quality, sustainable care; on the community and family levels, to raise awareness and elevate expectations about care options; and on the individual level, to motivate and facilitate planning and meaningful conversations with family members and caregivers.
Visit nhdd.org for tools to assist with thoughtful reflection on health-care choices.
In addition to beginning your own process of discussing, deciding and documenting your wishes, you can become part of the growing conversation to encourage planning for end-of-life care in your community. These are critical steps toward ensuring that the benefits of advance-care planning are available to every South Carolinian.
Dr. John Ropp
Project Director for Advance Care Planning, S.C. Medical Association