By Leon S. Kraybill, M.D.
Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine
As a geriatrician, I work with individuals to discuss their changing health every day. Discussions of disease, functional changes, clinical decline, and end-of-life care are very common. I routinely encourage people to consider health options, make treatment choices, and share these through discussion and advance care planning documents.
Here are four tips to guide you through the advance care planning process:
Start the conversation. A conversation about advance care planning is about life and how you want to live; not about death. It is a perfect time to express your wishes, identify what is most important to you, and connect to your loved ones. Start your discussion by asking yourself what you value most about life and health, and how you would like to accomplish that.
Advance care planning discussions are for everyone. The choices you make may change during different phases of life, but even young healthy individuals should make choices about their future care.
Just do it! Complete an advance healthcare directive. The right time to complete your advance healthcare directive (healthcare power of attorney and living will) is when you think about it. Don’t wait for the perfect moment, the right words, or a medical change. The advance healthcare directive expresses your wishes and instructions for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself during a terminal change. Click here to download and complete an advance healthcare directive.
Share your advance directive with loved ones, medical providers, and anyone who will help you make future choices. Your wishes cannot be honored if others don’t know about them.
Consider POLST if you have serious health conditions: POLST (Pennsylvania Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment) is a form printed on bright pink paper that allows documentation of your specific wishes for end-of-life care. It guides medical providers and family if you are unable to participate in moment-to-moment decisions. The form is kept near you at all times, usually on your refrigerator or by your bed if you are at home. It should be documented in your electronic medical record. Click here to learn more about POLST.
Through ongoing conversations, your loved ones and healthcare professionals are far more likely to be able to understand the medical treatment you desire, and most importantly, honor your wishes.
Leon S. Kraybill, M.D., is a physician with LG Health Physicians Geriatrics and Chief of Geriatrics for LG Health/Penn Medicine. He also serves as the Medical Director at Mennonite Home Communities in Lancaster and at Luther Acres in Lititz, PA. Education: Medical School—Temple University; Residency—Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program; Fellowship—Lancaster General Hospital Geriatric Fellowship.