Advance care directives are paper forms which provide important information about patients, ensuring their wishes for healthcare are followed should they be unable to speak for themselves. These forms provide peace of mind to patients and relieve loved ones of the burden of having to make difficult decisions during a health crisis, especially if those loved ones are unaware of the wishes of the patient.
“We want our patients to feel empowered to seek out information about their conditions before a crisis happens, and they need more information for decision-making,” says W. Anthony Riley, MD, Geriatrician and Medical Director of Gilchrist Hospice Care (GHC). “We want them to have the confidence to talk to their doctors about their conditions and their preferences.”
To make the advance care planning process easier, GHC offers an Advance Care Planning Series led by Dr. Riley. The discussions are held once a month, each describing different types of medical decisions that need to be made in accordance with specific health scenarios. These discussions include advance care planning topics for cardiac, dementia, general, neurodegenerative and pulmonary conditions.
“For those who have not experienced the sessions, I might use the words that have been expressed to me by some of the participants who have approached me after the presentation,” Dr. Riley says.
“They tell me the sessions are ’eye-opening,’ and gave them a lot of things for them and their families to think about.”
There are three key components to advance care planning that Dr. Riley discusses during his lecture series: healthcare agent selection, communication and decision-making. Healthcare agent selection focuses on choosing a trusted, well-known individual who is willing to listen to and follow the patient’s wishes, act in a timely manner and coordinate communication among family members. Dr. Riley goes into detail about advance care directives and provides important information about communication among the patient, medical team, healthcare agent and family members. He also offers up a series of questions and discussion topics that patients should cover with their physicians in order to determine the best course of medical action for their particular advance care plan.
According to Dr. Riley, each of the sessions offers valuable information about advance care issues, particularly those sessions pertaining to a patient’s specific condition.
“The most important thing is making sure that our patients and their families have the appropriate information and resources at their disposal,” Dr. Riley says. “There are many other no-cost alternatives on the Internet, and I share these Web addresses with session participants. We want all of our patients to have the choice to utilize whatever works best for them.”