Many of you have probably been asked if you have a health care directive when you have been seen at a medical clinic, in the emergency department or in the hospital. In Minnesota it is a regulation that health care providers ask patients if they have a health care directive and follow their choices. If the patient doesn’t have a health care directive, they are to be encouraged to complete one.
Completing a health care directive without knowledge of how to complete often leaves people very frustrated and tend not to complete.
In the Bible in Genesis, Jacob gathered his sons to give them instructions for the end of his life. There are other examples of end of life planning in the Bible. Christians can make plans for the end of their life without feeling that they are doing something un-Christian.
To better understand how to complete a healthcare directive I will define some terms:
Advance Care Planning: is a process which helps you think about, talk about, and write down your choices for future health care decisions.
Health Care Directive: is a written plan outlining your values and priorities for your future medical treatment. This allows medical care providers to be aware of and responsive to your preferences, needs, and values when you are unable to speak for yourself. The process reduces conflict about your wishes and helps your family prepare for future health care events.
Health Care Agent: a person(s) that makes health care decisions based on your wishes if you are unable to communicate. You can choose more than one agent if you think one person may not be able to be the agent in special circumstances ( your spouse – if both of you are critically injured in an accident). Consider the following when choosing your health care agent:
• Do I trust this person to be able to make tough decisions?
• Will this person honor my wishes even if he or she does not agree with my decisions?
• Can this person stand up for me even if family members or others disagree?
• Is this person likely to be available in case of emergency?
There are four basic steps to prepare your health care directive:
1. Start thinking about your goals and values related to healthcare and quality of life; especially having CPR done, feeding tubes, and life support. You might want to read more articles about advance care planning or go on-line to find more information. Your health care provider may have trained staff who assist with completing health care directives.
2. Talk with your family, friends, and others who might be involved in your life and healthcare in the future. Also talk with your health care provider. Minister. Select your healthcare agent and inform the person(s) of your values and choices. If you can’t pick a health care agent, it is very important to make your health care directive very clear about your wishes.
3. Write down your wishes, choices, and preferences in a health care directive. There are multiple health care directive forms. The Honoring Choices Minnesota forms from the Twin Cities Medical Society have been adopted by multiple health care organizations throughout Minnesota and are used in CentraCare.
4. When your health care directive is complete -the form must either be witnessed by two adults or signed by a notary public. Then make copies for your health care provider, your agent(s) and others mentioned in the health care directive, and family members. I encourage people to place one in your automobile and bring a copy when you travel. Store the original in a safe place.
As you age your goals, values and priorities often change. Reviewing your health care directive regularly is important. It is recommended that at least:
• review your health care directive when you start a new decade of your life
• whenever you experience the death of a loved one
• experience a divorce or other major family change
• are diagnosed with a serious health condition
• or experience a significant decline or deterioration of an existing health condition, especially if you are unable to live on your own.
If you would like to make changes to the form, it is recommended starting with a new form and destroying the old forms. This way there will be no confusion about your choices.
It is never too soon to do a health care directive; one just needs to be 18 years old. As you complete or revisit your health care directive encourage others to complete by starting the conversation with them.
If you would like assistance completing your health care directive there are several options in the central Minnesota area:
The Whitney Center in St. Cloud has trained facilitators to assist with completing health care directives on the first and third Tuesdays of the month from 11-12n. No appointment needed.
Light the Legacy (a St. Cloud non-profit organization which trains facilitators and does health care directive education) has contracted with CentraCare facilities to provide assistance with health care directives at the various CentraCare sites.
Click her for the Minnesota Catholic Health Care Directive form.
The Written Gift is a program in Alexandria and has an office at the hospital where one can come in and get help during certain office hours. Contact them by phone 320-759-4243, e-mail: email@example.com or visit their website: thewrittengift.com.
Contact your Faith Community/Parish Nurse.
*You may have heard of the Thanksgiving campaign to talk about Health Care when family is together. The holidays are a perfect time to start talking with your friends and family members. When people are together, focused on relationships, gratitude, and love it’s an opportunity to have meaningful conversations and heartfelt sharing about what matters most.