Advance Care Planning

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Advance Care Planning

Carving Out Time to Talk Advance Directives this Thanksgiving

Food. Family. Football. Freedom to choose your healthcare decisions.

Ok, so maybe that last one isn’t on the standard list of holiday traditions. However, our team is here to advocate for a new tradition for you to try as you gather to celebrate with your loved ones. Mashed potatoes with a healthy side of Advance Care Planning.

A few years ago, one of our  Advance Care Planning coordinators introduced a new tradition of having family members write down something they are grateful for on a paper leaf and adding it to a wreath hanging near their Thanksgiving table. Moans and groans and eye rolls were expected - but here’s the thing – everyone was happy to participate and open to the idea of sharing the good things in their lives! The process of advance care planning -  sharing about your wishes for the type of care you’d want or not want if you were unable to speak for yourself, is the same idea. What feels life giving? What fills your cup? What could you not imagine your life without?

Here are three reasons why Thanksgiving is the perfect time to talk about end of life discussions:  

  1. People are in the same room - In the world of technology we all live in, the holidays are often a time when loved ones have gathered face to face. Having these types of conversations in person allows everyone to feel included and are often easier and have better outcomes than when they’re done long distance. Missing family members? Then by all means use that technology!
  2. Reminiscing is expected and encouraged – For many families, talking about Grandma Doris’ pumpkin pie recipe is a tradition all its own. This can be a natural point of transition to discuss how the family handled the end of life for a loved one who has died. Was it a ‘good death’? Were there lessons learned? Does it impact the type of care you do or do not want to receive? These experiences can offer meaningful discussion and make creating an actual advance directive document that much easier!
  3. What you learn might surprise you – Similar to my learning that my family didn’t mind sharing the things they were thankful for, even my teenage nieces, I also learned that they were thankful for things I never would have imagined. Each of us have experiences and relationships that inform the way we think about life. Who knows, maybe Uncle Frank wears that same questionable sweater every year because it reminds him of a loved one who has passed? How does that person’s death make him think about his own life?

As you enjoy this season with your loved ones, we would encourage you to consider this new tradition. Conversations make all the difference! Sharing your wishes for the type of healthcare you do or do not want is an amazing gift to give your family – Christmas is coming, after all!

Need a little help getting started? Here are some helpful resources to get things going:

Check out a FREE Advance Care Planning class. One of our ACP Coordinators will go through a state specific document with you and your healthcare agent, if they're able to join you. You'll get information on sharing your wishes with your healthcare provider and your loved ones as well as how to make sure your documents are on file with your local hospital.

Another great resource is The Conversation Project. They have free conversation starter kits with ideas on how to get your loved ones talking about all things Advance Care Planning. Or you can watch this video to get started.

Sharing Your Wishes

Sharing your wishes for the care you want if you are critically ill can bring you closer to the people you love. Making your wishes known clearly in advance of a crisis is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself, your family and friends.

Advance Directives are a gift of love and peace-of-mind. Consider the facts:

  • 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of life care is important, but only 27% have done so
  • 82% of people say it’s important to put their wishes in writing, but only 23% have
    done it

Conversations can make all the difference!