April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, dedicated to inspiring, educating and empowering the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.
Advance care planning encourages all of us to understand and share our personal values, goals, and preferences regarding future medical care. This process includes:
- Deciding what types of treatment we may want/not want in the case of a life-limiting illness;
- Designating a healthcare agent or proxy to speak for us if we cannot speak for ourselves;
- Sharing these values and decisions with our proxy and others who may be involved in care decisions; and
- Completing advance directives to put these choices in writing.
It is LifeLong’s policy that every patient over the age of 18 will be educated about and offered an Advance Directive when they first become patients with LifeLong and then again on an annual basis.
In May, Epic is adding a new, annual reminder to complete annual Advance Care Planning with older patients and those with advanced illness. LifeLong’s Advance Care Planning Manual is being updated and will be shared at that time. Until then, here are some good resources:
Prepare for Your Care (Advance Directive)
POLST (Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment)
The Conversation Project (helping people share their wishes for care through the end of life)
Vital Talk (short videos with sample conversations)
Key Messages for Advance Care Planning (simple, evidence-based messages to encourage advance care planning)
In addition, patients with advanced illnesses who would like practical, emotional and/or spiritual support, or help with Advance Care Planning, can be referred to AC Care Alliance (in Epic under “External Referrals”). This is a local non-profit, started by African American churches to address serious health concerns among their members. The alliance is now serving the wider Alameda and Contra Costa communities with services in English and Spanish.