From the Fall 2013 issue of For Your Benefit
I’m Going to Do It; I Just Haven’t Done It…
Starting the Conversation About End of Life Wishes
Your loved ones probably know a lot about your hopes and dreams, your likes and dislikes. But have you let them know how you want to be treated at the end of your life? This hardest of conversations is easy to put off, but having this conversation will give your family or friends the gift of relieving them of the burden of deciding your end of life wishes. Most of us hope death will be quick and painless, but often it isn’t. Do you want to be cared for at home? In the hospital? Seventy percent of people would like to die at home, but in fact 70% die in the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Have you put your wishes about end of life care in writing? Although 82% of people say this is important to do, most of us have procrastinated on this, and only 23% have actually done so, according to a 2012 survey by the California HealthCare Foundation.
If you are a UniCare State Indemnity Plan member, over the winter UniCare mailed you information on a helpful Caring Conversations workbook that guides you through the process of creating an Advance Directive so your loved ones and doctors are aware of your wishes for end of life care. It’s not too late to download and complete this helpful guide if you didn’t do so when you got the mailing. If you’re a member of another GIC health plan, you can also access this helpful tool at the Center for Practical Bioethics’ website practicalbioethics.org.
Whom do you want to speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself? Where do you want to receive care? Who should be notified if you become ill? If you are unlikely to get well, do you want aggressive medical intervention or, do you want artificial life support under certain circumstances? Have you laid out what measures you want taken for help with breathing and eating? This is the type of information you’ll include in your Advance Directive.
You will want to identify your Health Care Proxy, the person you trust to act on your behalf if you are unable to make health care decisions or communicate your wishes. You can legally designate this person with a Durable Power of Attorney for HealthCare Decisions.
Don’t delay. Starting the end of life care conversation is very difficult, but there are helpful resources to assist:
The Conversation Project: Founded by renowned columnist and author, Ellen Goodman, in collaboration with other media members, clergy, medical professionals and the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, this website provides a free starter kit to start the end of life conversation with your loved ones: theconversationproject.org.
PREPARE: this website takes you step by step through the medical decision making process: prepareforyourcare.org.
The Center for Practical Bioethics: A nonprofit organization that raises awareness and responds to ethical issues in health and healthcare. Their Caring Conversations® workbook includes a health care directive form to outline your wishes and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decision form, to designate your health care proxy. This is available on UniCare’s website (unicarestateplan.com) and on the Center’s website: practicalbioethics.org.:
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.