This is national Healthcare Decisions Week, and throughout the month of April, MHA is re-doubling its effort to bring attention to the importance of advance healthcare planning – the process you want your loved ones and caregivers to help you carry out if you become seriously ill.
If you have a plan in place and discussed it with those close to you, it will ensure that your family will not be burdened with making tough decisions on your behalf if you become seriously ill, and that your wishes will be carried out. Having a plan in place can also avoid disputes between family members who may have differing ideas about the care you should, or should not, receive. And avoiding those disputes, which often occur in care settings, assists the caregivers at your bedside as well; they will be able to provide the care you wish without conflict.
The decision week is an initiative of The Conversation Project, working collaboratively with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This month, MHA is reaching out to educate our staff, the surrounding community, and our membership on the importance of advance healthcare planning. We've provided all MHA employees with a "Getting Started Tool Kit" from Honoring Choices Massachusetts, and have also offered and provided the tool kits to several of our neighbors in "The District" – the Burlington, Mass. executive park where our offices are located. This toolkit allows any competent individual over the age of 18 to:
• Choose a healthcare agent in a healthcare proxy;
• Write down their choices for care in a personal directive; and
• Learn how to talk to their care providers to align their care to their choices.
There are a lot of moving parts to advance care planning, but much of the information available to the public is clearly written, with easy-to-follow steps. And while the decision to begin a conversation about serious illness and end-of-life care is almost always a difficult one to make, avoiding such a conversation now may make things more difficult for you, your loved ones, and your healthcare providers further along in your life.
PatientCareLink, the healthcare quality and transparency website MHA co-sponsors with the Organization of Nurse Leaders – MA, RI, NH & CT (ONL), Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts (HCA) and Hospital Association of Rhode Island (HARI), also contains a great deal of information about advance healthcare planning; click on "Healthcare Planning Throughout Your Life" under the For Patients & Families Tab, or "Serious Illness Care" under Improving Patient Care.
Please join me and the rest of the MHA community in taking this important first step to make your own healthcare plan. Knowing you have control over your care even in serious situations is of tremendous value, both to you and your loved ones.