This article, “Why Is Advanced Care Planning Such a Gift?” was written by M Jane Markley consulting. We republish it here to address the needs for advanced care planning throughout Fairfax County VA. We’ve received a few calls this month, perhaps because of the pandemic, asking about the need for advanced care planning in Fairfax, as well as other areas of the region, and when decisions have to be made. The truth is, that when a family has an advanced care planning directive in place, everyone rests more easily. The wishes of a loved one are in place and the emotional decision is not left to anyone else. Take a look.
Many people with whom I have spoken over the years tell me that they don’t believe they need an advance directive for a variety of reasons. Some say, they just don’t care what happens to them. Others say that their loved ones “will know what to do” when the time comes.
Just not caring is one thing but it has been proven over and over again that just because someone has known you for a long time doesn’t mean they know what care you would like to receive when you can no longer make decisions for yourself.
I frequently ask people if they love their children. The vast majority answer “yes”. In fact, most people do love their children and will do anything to help them or protect them from harm.
In either case above, the family, loved ones and medical establishment are left to deal with the “Crisis” when the time comes. And why is it a crisis for others If a conversation hasn’t occurred? It is a crisis because they are the ones who are left to pick up the pieces and make decisions for your care. And, they “don’t know what they don’t know” if you haven’t shared your values, beliefs and preferences with them. Thus, they are left to guess as to what you might want in that situation with no guidance as to how to move forward. It is an untenable position leaving people unsure of what to do and how to make the best decisions for you. It can leave some people scarred for life.
I know that may sound a little far-fetched, but research has demonstrated that about one third of the people who are required to make these types of decisions without knowing their loved ones’ preferences have negative emotional effects which are substantial and can last for years. It doesn’t matter if the family has chosen to provide their loved one with every medical treatment possible or they have allowed natural death (AND) to occur. They still don’t know if they did the right thing and that is what haunts them and will continue to do so for years.
So, if you don’t care about it for yourself, keep your loved ones in mind. Give them the “gift” of knowing your preferences. Don’t leave them with the burden of not knowing what you want. It’s why I encourage everyone age 18 and above to:
Have ‘The Conversation’
Give ‘The Gift’
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