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Advance Care Planning

Four out of five Americans will not die suddenly, and when they are unable to tell us what kind of care they want to receive, families face tremendous stresses, critical decisions must be made, emotions run high, and conflicts between family members often emerge.

Many Americans find it difficult to think about the end of life.  Yet, planning ahead gives individuals control over future medical treatments and can lessen the burden on their loved ones.

Advance Care Planning lets YOU decide what kind of healthcare you will receive - while you are still healthy and free of crisis or pressure, and your family members will have a clear guide to follow if you become seriously ill.

Tips for communicating wishes about end-of-life care:

  • Prepare a "living will."  This document guides family members and doctors in deciding how aggressively to use medical treatments intended to delay death.  It usually spells out which interventions a person would want or refuse, such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation or mechanical ventilation.  A living will may also be called a "directive to physicians," "health care declaration" or "medical directive."

  • Choose a health care agent.  A "medical power of attorney" allows individuals to designate someone who can make decisions on their behalf should they become unable to communicate.  Other names for this document include "health care proxy," "appointment of a health care agent" or "durable power of attorney for health care."

  • Review these documents with family members and doctors.  This is also a good opportunity to discuss emotional and spiritual care.  People often find it comforting to be surrounded by loved ones and clergy near the end of life.  They may want to hear Bible verses or listen to soft music.  Each person has different needs.

For information on completing a living will or medical power of attorney, call Hospice of the Prairie at 620-227-7209.  The documents can be downloaded from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization web site (www.nhpco.org) or you can order a copy to be mailed to you by calling 1-800-658-8898.  These documents can be prepared at home.


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