As a nurse who has worked 10+ years in Long Term Care as a patient care coordinator and assistant director of nursing, I have seen the benefits of having conversations regarding advanced care planning preemptively. Although the discussion about end of life care for ourselves or our loved ones can be challenging, these hard conversations help reduce guilt and second guessing for decisions made by your health care agent in stressful times. It also provides the person whose decisions are being made for in those circumstances the ability to verbalize what is important to them prior to those unforeseen circumstances. I would like to share an example I have experienced as a healthcare provider.
At an assisted living facility that I was working at, a family was moving their mother in after her husband had passed away. Due to the experience of loss and all the medical complexities that accompany end of life, they decided to have an in depth discussion with their mother about her wishes for her advanced care plan. As my patient progressed through her disease process and began to decline rapidly, her children were able to make united decisions that focused on her wishes to be comfortable and surrounded by family at the end of her life. The family were all able to enjoy her last few weeks of life in the assisted living apartment that felt like her place with personal belongings that were important to her. As her healthcare coordinator I was able to properly access support services (i.e. hospice care) and avoid being admitted to the hospital. The family expressed their gratefulness to how their mom was taken care of and how if those hard discussions had not occurred, they would have not been able to focus on their time with her and enjoy her last moments of life.
As a health care provider, I urge you to step outside your comfort zone and have the hard conversations that will provide long term comfort and support for you and your loved ones.