Many hospitals are limiting visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so have you considered who should make decisions about your care if you’re incapacitated?
“We really want you to talk with your family, talk with your loved ones, and think personally about what matters most to you,” said Tiffany Callender of the Horizon Foundation, which is the largest independent health philanthropy in Maryland.
Callender also leads the Speak(easy) Howard campaign to encourage advance-care planning.
“Name who can speak for you if you’re unable to speak for yourself,” she said.
An important first step in the process of making advance directives is figuring out what quality of life means to you.
“If you learned you had a limited time to live, what parts of your current life would you want to make sure stayed in place?” Callender said.
The answer will be different for different people, of course, such as being able to take care of yourself. Callender uses as an example a woman telling her husband the importance of her being able to parent their children.
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“If a doctor or provider is coming to you and saying, ‘We can do this treatment, but your wife will not be able to recognize her family members, she won’t be able to understand how to teach your children or go through classes with them,'” Callender said, “he can use that as a guide post to say, ‘OK, she always told me that’s what she wanted to fight for.'”
Guidance and numbers of resources are available through the Speak(easy) Howard website.
“We point you to different handouts that you can sit down with and get much more granular; you can utilize the Maryland attorney general’s living will form, and they will walk through specific treatments about things like intubation and pain management and nutrition,” Callender said.
Documenting advance directives such as your health care agent electronically is recommended, and Speak(easy) Howard connects you with the website MyDirectives, which functions internationally.
“The beauty about Maryland is that we actually connect MyDirectives to the system that health care providers use, so it makes it a little bit easier in Maryland to get those documents back out,” Callender said.
MyDirectives is secure and approved by the state of Maryland as a vendor to create your electronic directives, Callender said.