How to make your wishes known in a medical emergency

This content is provided by JSSA.

Do your family and doctors know what kind of medical care you would want if you couldn’t speak for yourself? Too often loved ones and medical providers are forced to guess at what a person would want during a health care emergency. Making decisions under these circumstances are stressful for all those involved and may not lead to the type of care that follows your values and preferences. The best time to think about what is most important to you, what your wishes and values are, and who you want to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself, is before a medical crisis happens. Creating a plan in advance – called advance care planning – provides guidance to those who matter most to you, as well as to health care providers which allows them to support and honor your wishes.

The first step in creating an advance care plan is thinking about your values and preferences when it comes to health care. If you were too sick to speak for yourself would you want to be at home? In a hospital? Would you want to get all medical treatments possible or only comfort care? Would you want the focus to be on the quality of your life or to live as long as possible regardless of the quality? Would you want to have a window nearby to look out at nature? Or to listen to your favorite music or have people pray with you? Are there cultural or religious aspects that you wish to be followed?

Thinking about these things can seem overwhelming, but you don’t need to do this all on your own. Voice Your Choice is a community program that offers free resources, materials and trainings to support you in creating your advance care plan. The Voice Your Choice website provides information that can help you think about your wishes for medical care, including registration for free webinars, and the opportunity to create a free online advance care plan.  Before finalizing your advance care plan, make sure to schedule time to talk with your doctor so that they can answer specific medical questions you may have. And don’t forget to talk with those who matter most to you about your wishes as well, including the person who would speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself (your health care agent). It is important that they hear about your wishes directly from you.

Whether you are 18 or 108, completing an advance care plan can make sure that your wishes are known and honored, even when you cannot speak for yourself.

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