By Kelly St. Martin, LMSW, ACHP-SW
National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) exists to inspire, educate, and empower the public about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD is April 16, just a few days after Tax Day. Discussing your healthcare wishes is not an easy topic. It can evoke fear, misunderstanding, reluctancy, and vulnerability. However, the conversation can bring relief, hope and satisfaction.
The following story is a glimpse into a recent referral. This experience gives a clear picture of the value of Advance Care Planning (ACP).
Charted Healthcare Planning Coalition offers free ACP, virtually or in person. Charted is a community coalition supported by Harbor Hospice, Harbor Palliative Care, Senior Resources, LifeCircles PACE, Professional Med Team, Muskegon Community College, and the Muskegon Community Health Project. Physician offices understand the value and offer Charted’s ACP services when appropriate or requested.
Most appointments are completed in the comfort of a home setting as it often provides insight into what is most important in their lives. The important things in our lives drive our decisions.
During this referral, we talked about why he chose now to talk about ACP and what he knew of the process. He explains he recently lost his father and wanted to complete the necessary paperwork to help his daughter as he wishes his father would have done for him. We spoke about what he learned from navigating his father’s death and if there was anything he would have done differently. He initially said, “I never what to go to the hospital”. We talked about what not going to the hospital would mean.
As we processed the emotion behind his statement, he realized that what he feared most was dying alone and feared hospitalization may lead to this. We both held space for his tears and spoke about how important his daughter was to him. We talked about what matters. Very articulately he stated his primary wish is for his daughter to be supported and that this would provide him the most comfort. This was a very powerful statement, and we wrote this directly into his power of attorney for healthcare. Clinicians will reference these clear statements to help guide care.
The topic of ACP can be heavy and because of this often avoided. But today, we peppered the conversation with small talk and chatted freely. We laughed and smiled and although we talked about death, what we were really talking about was life. His daughter and sister were both added as patient advocates, and he was left with the homework of finding two witnesses to complete this document. I scheduled a return visit to confirm completion and to upload the document into the healthcare system.
A few weeks later, because of the in-depth conversations and paperwork now in place he felt empowered and consented to a hospitalization. He was treated briefly and released home to be cared for by family. His clearly defined wishes allowed for the care plan he desired.
ACP conversations often vary just like the people they serve. Regardless of age or health status, every ACP should represent the individual and their wants and wishes. As we recognize National Healthcare Decisions Day, please take the time to think about your own personal wishes and what is important to you. Who is your person? What is your plan?
The ACP Coordinator at Charted Healthcare Planning Coalition is available to help you complete your healthcare power of attorney. Please feel welcome reach out via email or phone to ACPCoordinator@ChartedMuskegon.org or 231.327.8573.
Article published in Senior Perspectives March-April 2022 Issue (distributed and published by Senior Resources)
About the author
Kelly is the Advance Care Planning Coordinator for Charted Healthcare Planning Coalition and a social worker for Harbor Palliative Care. Kelly has been promoting healthcare conversations for over two decades. When she is not encouraging the community to complete their advance directive; she is juggling the schedule of two teenagers or lounging on one of West Michigan’s pristine shorelines.
Harbor Hospice and Harbor Palliative Care is committed to alleviating patients’ symptoms and providing choices to help the patient achieve optimum well-being. For four decades, Harbor Hospice has provided experienced, compassionate end-of-life care for terminally ill patients and their families, focusing on medical, emotional, and spiritual needs regardless of ability to pay. Serving residents of lakeshore West Michigan, their team of professionals and volunteers connect patients and families with resources to align their goals of comfort and improved quality of life.
Learn more at HarborHospiceMI.org or by calling 231.728.3442 / 1.800.497.9559.