You want this no matter what your position is…good end of life planning gives you control. If done appropriately and with the right legal tools you can dictate how you want your journey to be played out based on your values and not the values of the doctor, the hospital, your family or others.
I am not sure all doctors are prepared or trained to have this very sensitive discussion with aging patients. However, some are excellent at counseling individuals and families about choices one can make around health care decisions. I believe this type of counseling should be done every 5 years and I applaud the designers of the potential new health plan for including this measure.
Professionals from other disciplines might be better at this type of counseling, those who are outside the medical provider area – such as Professional Geriatric Care Managers (PGCM). A PGCM can help you look at the different tools available for you to record and direct your end of life interventions and ask you about values. Most importantly, the PGCM can give you peace of mind that someone will advocate for you to ensure the journey goes your way – and that the someone you so name is in agreement to follow your plan – no matter how “outside of the box” it might be.
One tool for Advance Directive Planning is “The Five Wishes”. This document recognized in many States takes in more of the sensitive end of life wishes of individuals than the standard “Advance Care Directive/Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.” This document is honored in most states but not all. So, if this is a document you want to use – be sure it will be honored in your State.
If you want all medical interventions possible to extend your life these documents are just as important or maybe more so than those that just want comfort care and no “heroic” interventions based on their directives, values, culture and religion.
I cannot defend the Obama Health plan nor can I tear it apart – but I can tell you that each of us should complete some end of life planning tool no matter what our age. Those who are past 65 should look at all of their legal documents annually – I suggest the month of your birthday – just to see if you should redo something or if your options or thoughts have changed – you can amend your documents.
Elder Law Attorneys (http://www.naela.org) can be a good resource with this planning element as well as Geriatric Care Managers. Most Elder Law attorneys include these documents in all of their estate planning sessions. However, not everyone practices in the same manor. So, be pro-active and ask questions about this very important tool to have life your way till the very end.
May each of you who read this have a full and peaceful life. May you gather the tools you need to have the last journey unfold as directed by you and not others.