Advance Care Planning for Seniors: A Guide

Interim HealthCare Blogs
Posted: 4/15/2022 1:40 PM by Interim HealthCare
Will to live, instructions for making your own decisions in the future, healthcare power of attorney, and letting others know what you want are some of the issues older people don't usually come to terms with until it’s too late. Read on to find a guide on Advance Care Planning for Seniors and how they can safely place their bets and lead their lives peacefully.

What is the Purpose of Advance Care Planning?

Advance directives and living wills are familiar concepts, but many patients are unsure of the term "advance care planning" that doctors use.

Preparing in advance for the types of healthcare decisions that may need to be made and letting people know about your healthcare preferences (typically through an advance directive) is an important part of advance care planning.

Advance care planning includes not just the formulation of an advance directive but also a comprehensive process of contemplation, education, and conversation with others regarding healthcare. There's no harm in wishing for the best. However, we need to be prepared for both the probable and the improbable.

Key Steps in Making an Advance Care Plan

The following are the four most important steps in making an advanced health care plan:

1.Recognize and Plan for Potential Future Health Issues

When it comes to caring for aging loved ones, it's important to learn about their long-term health concerns and how they may evolve and deteriorate over time.

2.Reflect on Your Values and Choices for Future Care

Discussing your values with close relatives and friends can help you prepare for a health crisis or a possible end-of-life scenario. An important question to ask yourself is, "who do I want to make medical decisions for me if I'm too ill to do so?"

3.Express Your Preferences

Express your preferences in both written and spoken communication. No matter how difficult it may be to get your loved ones to sign an advance directive, it's always better to have something in writing (such as a date-stamped letter to your family and primary care physician). It's also a good idea for people to discuss openly with their care circle about their preferences, so they may ask questions and avoid being startled by what's been recorded.

4.Reevaluate Your Plans

Reevaluate your choices and plans regularly. It is common for people's requirements, interests, and preferences to vary over time as their health and life circumstances change. Therefore, you should examine the advance care planning process frequently. A surrogate decision-maker can prepare care planning documents even if an older person has lost the ability to make important medical decisions.

Five Pointers to Help You Plan for Health Care

After we've covered the foundations of advance care planning, help an older person better plan for health emergencies and end-of-life care by doing a few specific things:

1.Focus on the Last Stage of the Life

Instead of focusing on the final moments of your life, consider making plans for the last stage. The term "end-of-life" conjures up images of death and dying for many individuals. It's common for people to think about how they'd like to die. This is an issue that needs to be taken into consideration. However, different critical healthcare decisions must be made before an older person dies.

Expanding the planning frame to think about the final stages of life rather than the final moments would help the elderly, their family, and the professional team handle the healthcare problems that frequently arise. Moreover, you should know what to expect when it comes to your health.

2.Ask Questions

If your loved one has a growing chronic condition, such as dementia, heart failure, or COPD, you should ask questions. As chronic illnesses advance, patients and caregivers are often not informed of what to expect. So, if one of these disorders has progressed to the point where there is a strong probability of death within the next year or two, don't expect the physicians will notify you.

Many doctors will be able to provide important information regarding expected health crises for a certain disease. You can also find additional information from medical specialists, other patients, and caregivers.

3.Help the Elderly to Reflect 

 Find tools to help the elderly through the process of reflection. Pondering your goals, ideals, and principles is no minor feat. We're talking about life or death and everything in between when it comes down to it! Therefore, you should always strive to help them realize that choosing a medical decision-maker is a difficult task. Ask questions like:
  • What is the best way to prioritize your life's choice?
  • How do you choose a decision-maker?
  • To what extent are you willing to trust the appointed decision-maker?
  • What is the best way to convey your desires to others?
  • What questions should you ask your doctor about your treatment?

4.Involve the Doctors in the Planning Process

The goal of extending the life and lowering the risk of death is frequently the most important consideration in medical care. However, there are additional reasons for providing care. Pain, suffering, and the ability to participate in daily activities can be reduced.

The situation, interests, and values of the elderly should be considered while developing medical care goals. For instance, an older person who has previously stated that they are sick of travelling to hospitals would suffer when hospitalized to treat and reverse an acute sickness.

Consult with your loved one's primary care physician or another clinician who is familiar with their medical history to begin the discussion of treatment objectives. Your doctors need to know what your family hopes for and how the current medical state affects your alternatives for working toward your goals.

5.Be Ready to Deal with Ambiguity and Uncertainty

Some people think that completing an advanced care planning process means that everything will run like clockwork when the time comes for a crisis. There are many cases where none of the various solutions is the best choice for health emergencies.

This does not negate the value of advance care planning, which lays the groundwork for family caregivers and doctors to deal with emergencies effectively. Although many elderly patients are involved in this problem-solving, they are often too unwell or incompetent to make medical decisions alone.

Final Words

It can be stressful for the elderly and their families when faced with challenges and uncertainty amid an illness. However, pre-planning for long-term care can help set up an older person to receive better healthcare services and reduce stress and minimize the likelihood of guilt and PTSD among family caregivers,