By Dr. Daren Heyland, Founder of Plan Well Guide
Worried about what might happen to you or a loved one you are caring for if they were to get seriously ill? With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to forage on, it has left many people feeling overwhelmed and wondering how long both this feeling and the pandemic will carry on for. As a critical care physician and researcher who has been studying communication and decision-making when patients are seriously ill for more than 20 years, I am unfortunately all too familiar with people who have not thought ahead to prepare and plan ahead for their future medical care. Consequently, patients and families experience considerable stress when making time-sensitive life and death decisions and, ill-prepared patients are more likely to get the ‘wrong’ medical care. This is why Plan Well Guide (www.planwellguide.com) was created.
The goal of this free website is to help individuals understand the different types of medical treatments offered, and with a deeper sense of knowledge, help individuals communicate what is important to them, so that they can share that information with their loved ones and their health care team and get the medical care that is right for them.
In these current times, it is more important than ever before that individuals do their Advance Serious Illness Planning (ASIP). You may be reading this and thinking what exactly is ASIP and how does that differ from advance care planning (ACP)? Traditional ACP focuses on end-of-life planning under to conditions of certain death. It is similar with legal documents (Representation agreements) that you may have filled out where there is language like “When I am dying, this is what I want or don’t want, etc.” Unfortunately, this language is not helpful and may even be harmful as it causes confusion when applied to a serious illness where there is some uncertainty about whether you will live or die (for more on this read this blog at planwellguide.com/chapter-19/). Serious illness is like a bad COVID-19 pneumonia, a severe stroke or heart attack, or being in a bad car accident, where there is a probability you may die, but there is also a probability you might recover. The concept of ASIP is about putting your values, goals and preferences into a planning document, so when you are ill and can no longer make decisions, your doctors, substitute decision- maker and your family can refer to it. The output of Plan Well Guide is a ‘Dear Doctor’ and ‘Dear Substitute Decision-Maker” letter, so they have a written record of your values and preferences.
By planning your medical care in advance and sharing information with your family members, you can significantly reduce their stress and anxiety when they are called upon to make decisions for you. And, you are more likely to get the medical care that is right for you!
Think about it in the context of your role as a caregiver. If your loved one were hospitalized with COVID-19 or another type of serious illness, they most likely won’t be able to think or speak for themselves and the doctors will want to speak to someone to help make life and death decisions. Has the care-recipient formally designated a substitute decision-maker? Is that you? Do you or the formally designated substitute decision-maker know how best to represent their wishes when making life and death decisions? Do you know how medical decisions are made and how to advocate for the best care for your care recipient?
I understand that for many, these scenarios are difficult to consider; however, the alternative to not discussing them is far worse. To help guide you through this planning process, Plan Well Guide offers a free online course that will walk you through creating your Advance Serious Illness Plan, so you will:
- Be educated about the different types of medical care and treatments
- Be able to express your values and goals
- Get done-for-you documents to allow for easy sharing and communication
The online workbook is designed to help you make informed decisions about your medical care. It takes you step-by-step through thoughtful consideration of your values, preferences, and different types of care. We don’t want to overload you with information, therefore the workbook will always save your progress and you can pick up where you left off as many times as needed.
When it comes to advance serious illness planning, by failing to plan, you may be setting yourself up to fail! If you don’t plan ahead, you are more likely to get the wrong medical care and you will be adding to the stress and anxiety that family members experience when called into making life and death decisions without proper guidance and instruction. I encourage you to do your ASIP, ASAP at www.planwellguide.com!
For more BC resources on Advance Care Planning and times when you need health care and can’t speak for yourself visit: www2.gov. bc.ca/gov/content/family- social-supports/seniors/ health-safety/advance-care- planning