Updated: Oct 31
While hospice is a type of health care that focuses on pain and symptom management during the end–of–life journey, palliative care exists to improve the quality of life for people suffering from serious illness whether they are receiving curative therapy or not. Understanding the difference and knowing when to plan for these types of advance care options should be an important part of every ones life journey.
St. Louis Care Alliance member, Joshua Bennett, Director Of Business Development at AccentCare Hospice & Palliative Care, reminds us that: "Understanding the power of advance care planning can often extend beyond just the patient. It touches the lives of everyone who loves you and the professionals in a position to care for you".
So what is advance care planning? Its a process that enables individual's and families to make plan's about their future health care. It involves having discussions and preparing for the decisions about medical care should you or your family member become seriously ill or unable to communicate wishes. In a nutshell, an advance care plan provides direction to healthcare professionals when a person is not in a position to make and/or communicate their own healthcare choices.
Bennett knows first hand how advance care planning can help loved ones grieve easier and feel less burden, guilt, and depression. A few years ago his brother suffered a seizure which caused him to aspirate and subsequently go into cardiac arrest. Emergency personnel were able to bring him back, but not until irreversible brain damage had occurred. Subsequent tests confirmed his family’s worst nightmare, and the decision was made to honor his wish to be an organ donor. While the family’s anticipatory grief grew, they were able to take comfort after every update that a recipient had been identified. His brother’s suffering was not in vain, and the family was and is so proud of his strength and selflessness.
"When having an advance care plan that includes directives, documents and instructions for medial care, it alleviates the second guessing, helping with the emotional challenges when giving care directives"
Advance care plans go into effect if you cannot communicate your own wishes. One can expect to prepare a living will and assign a durable power of attorney for the health care to be received. These guide the decision making process from the desire of the patients wishes.
A durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document that names your health care proxy - a person who can make health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate these yourself. A proxy can be chosen in addition to or instead of a living will.
While palliative care is a larger strategy that can begin at any stage of a critical illness, hospice care is a subset of palliative care designed for patients reaching the end of life. The decisions at this point of the life journey don't have to be rushed or nearly as uncomfortable if an advance care plan exists.
"There is no better time to talk about an advance care plan than before someone is ready for hospice" says Bennett. "We recognize that the industry hasn't done a real good job of educating when hospice is to be presented. AccentCare wants to change that".
An advance care plan should be considered in before a need arises, to help our loved ones make decisions about future medical care based on their personal values and goals. Learning more about advance care plans, choosing palliative care, hospice and anything else related to end-of-life care can be found at accentcare.com.
Thank you Joshua, for sharing your story.