Have you heard of advanced care planning, or “ACP?”
If not, ACP is about making decisions around the care that you would want to receive, at any stage of health, and offers you the opportunity to choose an advocate, or health care agent if you become unable to speak for yourself. These decisions are based on your personal values and preferences in care through discussions with your loved ones and your providers.
It is important to be able to make informed decisions about your health care with your providers and outline the health care goals you have for yourself.
Advanced care planning is for anyone over the age of 18 — healthy or ill.
It is important to have one at any age, just in case of the unexpected. And there is no downside to filling one out.
“You can imagine at age 18 one doesn’t have many concerns about their health or their future, but as a person gets older these discussions — about goals and wishes — become more important,” said Dr. Wayne Saltsman, MD, PhD, chief medical officer for Lahey Health Continuing Care, and the medical director for Lahey Health at Home, home care, hospice, and palliative care. “We want to make sure that our Lahey providers are aware of what Lahey patients want when it comes to their own care. This is a system quality goal at Lahey Health.”
The first way you can take a proactive stance in advanced care planning is to elect a health care agent, someone who can make decisions on your behalf if needed. To do this, you need a document called a health care proxy, which names the person you choose to make decisions in time of need. This document can be added to your medical record.
In Massachusetts, you can learn more about advance care planning through the nonprofit Honoring Choices, a consumer focused organization, and Lahey Health partner. Honoring Choices provides resources to help every adult understand and exercise their right to direct their care through a “ health care plan” that honors their care goals, values and choices — starting at 18 years old — and continuing all throughout their life. Honoring Choices also provides information about generating a health care proxy. This is also the only legally recognized advanced care planning document — living wills are not.
Lahey Health makes patient-centered care a priority.
Lahey Health providers are talking to patients about what kind of care they want. Part of this conversation is spreading the word about the importance of the health care proxy.
“Patients often don’t realize that their care is actually a shared decision making process with their provider, Dr. Saltsman said. “In our primary care offices, our providers are starting to have these important conversations and are learning about what kind of care their patients would want.”
“We know that these conversations become more important as people age,” Dr. Saltsman said. “As people become more medically complex, it’s important for us as providers to understand their goals and wishes for health care. This is a true partnership in care.”
For more information how to begin advanced care planning, speak with your Lahey Health provider.