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Preparing now to make difficult decisions easier

Preparing now to make difficult decisions easier
As we enter the holiday season, many of us will visit with family and friends, making it a good time to discuss future healthcare decisions with those you trust to carry them out.

Advance care planning (ACP) helps you consider what matters most and prepares you to share your life and healthcare preferences with important people. If you become unable to communicate, this plan acts as a guide for your family and friends and healthcare team.

Kelsey Staley, RN, performance improvement and quality improvement specialist, knows firsthand how important planning for future healthcare decisions can be. “I have some family friends that recently began considering their advance directives, one of them suffered from late-stage Alzheimer’s and their spouse assumed the caregiver role,” Staley said. “Due to the late-stage Alzheimer’s and being non-decisional, my family friend was no longer able to designate who would be her power of attorney. She was too far advanced in the disease process. The healthcare decisions were now left up to her spouse.”

Starting these conversations with those who matter most can be difficult, but it’s worth the hard conversation to ensure those individuals receive the care they desire during emergencies or at the end of life. People are often unaware it’s something they should be considering.

“Talk about it with your family, don’t wait until they are in a life-threatening medical situation to have the first discussion. The conversations may be a little uncomfortable initially, but by bringing it up, you give people a chance to think about it and a chance to act on it,” said Staley.

There are a few steps that you or a loved one can take to begin the process of planning:
  • Think about your values, priorities and wishes, and share these with people in your life you’re closest to. You should also choose someone you trust to speak for you if you are no longer able to.
  • The Power of Attorney for Health Care documents who the individual has chosen to be their decision maker. A Living Will shares end of life wishes.
  • The signing of advance directive forms must include an adult witness. These documents should stay in your medical record.
For help making advance care planning decisions, Carle offers the Respecting Choices® program. This program assists patients with making informed decisions about their future healthcare needs. This program is free to all patients.

The ACP team has also designed a game for community members to begin these conversations with friends and family. This game, called “I Didn’t Know That!” offers a chance to discuss future healthcare decisions while learning more about each other. Anyone can download a copy of this game here.

Carle Health also offers virtual events that provide information about advance care planning. These events provide the opportunity to ask questions about the ACP process.

“These virtual events Carle offers help prompt people to think about their future care,” said Staley. “It helps people ask ‘What kind of medical interventions do I want?’ and ‘Do the right people know what medical interventions I want?’. These thoughts help get the conversation started.”

Staley recommends bringing someone to these events as well. It is helpful to hear the information and discuss the details later.

“The biggest advantage to completing ACP now is that when the time comes that you need it, you’ll have already thought through it and have a plan,” said Staley. “Talk to your PCP about it now and they’ll help you with the documentation. Then you’ll have it ready.”

The Advance Care Planning team at Carle is always available to help. “Whether it’s one communication, or many, the ACP team is there for you,” said Staley.

For more information, visit or contact the Advance Care Team at

Categories: Redefining Healthcare

Tags: Advance, Care, Community, Decisions, Health, Healthcare, Planning