Have the Conversation Today

“It always seems too early, until it’s too late.”

It’s an all-too-common refrain from loved ones who waited too long to have conversations about end-of-life care preferences.

I, myself, live with regret of a decision made with my husband as he neared the end of his life.

We followed the expert recommendations of his care team to move him from home to inpatient hospice care, but he and I both knew he wished to die at home. When the decision had to be made, he was so close to death that we couldn’t have the conversation with his family.

Eleven years later, I still wonder: “What if…?”

Today – not tomorrow – we all should consider if our wishes are known by those who will speak for us when we near death.

Advance care planning is not just about old age. At any age, a medical crisis could leave you too ill to make your own health care decisions.

Even if you are not sick now, making health care plans for the future is an important step toward making sure you get the medical care you would want. It guides doctors and family members in making the decisions for you.

Have the conversation today with your loved ones. At the end of any advance care planning conversation, you should have these “five wishes” clearly understood by your family:

1. Who do you want to represent you when you can’t make health care decisions for yourself due to your medical or mental condition?

2. What extreme measures do you wish to have taken to prolong your life if death seems imminent? This includes CPR, life support and pain management.

3. How comfortable do you wish to be when you are near death?

4. How do you want people to treat you? Do you wish to die at home?

5. How you will share your stories with those you love, and what do you want your family to do for arrangements once you die?

Here is what you can do today to plan for your health horizon:
 Gather resources. Find conversation starters, issues to consider and instructions for completing advance directives at WellSpan.org/HorizonPlanning.
 Start with yourself: What are your own health care decisions? Consider what will be important as you near death.
 Involve loved ones: Mutually share your wishes. Have many conversations as life and health changes.
 Readiness: Give your advance care plans to your physician/hospital so your wishes can be known and honored.

Everyone has a health horizon. You should plan for it. You and your family will be glad you did.

To learn more about WellSpan’s Horizon Planning, visit WellSpan.org/HorizonPlanning.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Roberta Geidner, Horizon Planning Coordinator at WellSpan Health.