Important Healthcare Decisions: 3 Helpful Tips
Dan O'Hare, Department of Medicine
Even those of us who work in healthcare find that making important medical decisions can be difficult. Decisions are especially difficult when there is pressure to act quickly, when you or your loved one is very sick, or the decision has a potentially life-changing impact. The good news is that you and your family can prepare in advance so you can focus on what’s most important: each other. Here are 3 steps to help you on this journey.
1. Learn the language.
Advance Directive: This is a legal document that includes the decisions that you make such as preferences for care and appointing someone to act on your behalf. Whether or not you choose to have an advance directive will in no way impact the quality of your care. In Connecticut, there are two types of advance directives. Ideally, you should have both of these in place:
- Healthcare Representative or Proxy: You have the ability to appoint someone you trust to make all healthcare decisions for you, based on your wishes. Your healthcare representative only makes these decisions when you are unable to do so. The representative will work with the healthcare team to assure your wishes are carried out.
- Living Will: A living will is a document that includes your wishes about the specific kinds of treatment you do and do not want to receive and it goes into effect only when you are unable to make or communicate decisions about your medical care. Having a living will also does not affect any pain medications or care needed and prescribed by your doctor.
2. Get started.
Reach out for help. Educate yourself more on advance directives. The “3 'G’s' of Advance Directives” are gift, guide and goal.
First, an Advance Directive is a gift, a thoughtful and generous way to help you and others around you to be clear about what your wishes are and that they are carried out.
Next, it is a guide, for the healthcare team about what you want and what you do not want if you become very ill.
Finally it is a goal, to preserve your “voice” should you not be able to communicate as you do now.
Stamford Hospital’s downloadable guide to advance directives may help you and your loved ones understand your rights and other expectations in Connecticut.
3. Talk about what you have learned.
Once you are more informed about all of the possibilities, begin to have conversations with your family, your physician, someone you might consider to be your healthcare representative, a religious leader or an attorney.
Also, try not to be overwhelmed. You’re not alone. Take comfort in knowing millions of Americans are also trying to navigate through their healthcare decisions every day. Every year in April, Stamford Health hosts a National Healthcare Decision Day event as a way to help the community navigate everything we’ve just touched upon.