As the manager of an Intensive Care Unit, at a large trauma center, I had the duty of being a member of our biomedical ethics committee. I was afforded a unique vantage point from which to observe our progress over the years since much of what we deal with are complex cases involving patients who lack competence, clarity or consciousness to be their own strongest advocate. And who always seem to have an abundance of family with strong conflicting opinions.
Situations like these create havoc with medical staff who must sort desperately through the layers of complexity in an effort to deliver quality care. When there’s an advance directive, we give a collective sigh of relief. When there isn’t, we collectively shake our heads. Without a personalized plan for your health, all health care decisions will be left to the opinions of others. It’s time to be your own strongest patient advocate.
If there can be silver lining to our recent pandemic, it’s that it has forced us to consider the implications of facing a life-threatening illness, in complete isolation. If you’re like me, your imagination has wrangled with the realistic potential of having to choose between being on a ventilator, alone, in a makeshift ICU or certain death. Would we… could we do it? What if we became too sick too soon to make our voices heard? Who would make that decision and what would the answer be?
From what I witnessed this past year on the frontlines, it seemed so much of the anguish suffered by the patients and families could have been eased by good care planning. So what are you waiting for? Make a commitment today to be a hero, to yourself, to your loved ones and to your healthcare community. Let me offer some observations I’ve made that might help ease you into the process of healthcare planning and allow you to be your own strongest patient advocate.
First. Your care plan is not chiseled into a stone tablet.
It is a signal, a sign to your healthcare providers, that you have put great thought and consideration into things most precious to you. And that you have made certain choices and decisions when it comes to your life and your death. Healthcare professionals consider a patient’s care plan an invitation to connect on a deeper level. It offers them a unique patient perspective, as well as, a launch point for further discussion. You are not issuing an edict for doctors to follow without question. You are opening the door to quality care as you define it.
Second. Getting Started.
Make a date with yourself, grab a notebook and head for the woods, a park, your balcony or back patio and take a quick snapshot of your life. Ask yourself, what drives you? Then continue as write down what gets you out of bed each day? And finally what is it that constitutes your best life? Is it children, family, music, writing, baseball, work, running, quilting, learning, reading, basketball, video games, religion? No list is too great or too short, as long as it’s yours.
Now take a moment at the other end of the spectrum and think about what might matter to you in a health crisis. Don’t dwell. This is a top-of-mind exercise. Just capture your gut responses… hospice at home, my dog in the hospital, casket, no casket, burial, cremation, gospel, traditional, acoustic music, this scripture, that poem, a suit, my favorite sweater, a wake, this park, that church, my mosque, that hymn.
No matter the method you choose, don’t forget to capture your thoughts and wishes. They will become the bones of your formal care plan that will be referred to, in the event you cannot express your own desires verbally. This is how you can be your own strongest patient advocate.
Third. Who speaks for you?
Whatever you may call it: Backup Person, Patient Advocate, Patient Representative, Ombudsmen, Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, etc., this will be the MOST important choice you make when creating your plan. Take your time and think it through. Here are some important considerations:
Make sure to follow us on Facebook for more tips! Click here.
Join our email list and for invaluable information and knowledge from Connie, owner and RN who has 35+ years in the field.
Fantastic! You are now on our email list, and can expect only valuable information in your inbox from us.