The One Conversation You Should Have with Your Family Today

Guest blog written by Jeanie Youngwerth, Director of Palliative Care at University of Colorado Hospital

advance directiveAdvance care planning (ACP) is meaningful way to care for yourself and your loved ones, and you can begin today.

A conversation is the first step

ACP is a process in which you talk about what matters most to you and your preferences for medical care during times of serious illness when you are not able to voice them yourself.  This process puts the control over your healthcare back in your hands, so you are most likely to receive the medical care that is important to you.

Just 3 steps

1) Talk with your loved ones and healthcare providers about your values in life, what matters most to you, what quality of life means for you, and your preferences on healthcare during times of serious illness. Update people periodically on what matters most so you can all be on the same page (at least yearly; after any hospital stay)

2) Choose a spokesperson, a “medical durable power of attorney” or MDPOA for short. This person’s job is to be your voice on healthcare decisions during times when you cannot speak for yourself.  The spokesperson becomes your MDPOA when you have it documented on paper and signed by you.

3) Complete advance directive paperwork, your healthcare provider can assist you in what to complete (in addition to the MDPOA).

After you’ve completed the three steps outlined above, you can rest easy knowing that your wishes will be honored in the event you are not able to speak for yourself. Just be sure to make updates as needed!

More info for Colorado residents

Appointing an MDPOA is very important for adults in Colorado.  Coloradans do not have a default person of who speaks for you when you are not able.  If you do not complete an MDPOA, and you fall ill and can’t speak for yourself, then the healthcare team must gather “all interested parties” that may want to have a say in your healthcare, and this group will decide together who will be your spokesperson (now called “proxy healthcare decision maker.”)  This takes time and people don’t always agree.  You don’t have a say anymore on who is speaking for you. The good news is that this can all be avoided if you appoint an MDPOA!  Remember, the control can stay in your hands.

Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about advance care planning at your next visit.  You can even make an appointment just to talk about advance care planning.  It is that important!  We want your voice to be heard, the control to stay with you, and to make sure you receive the healthcare that matters most to you.

Websites with advance directive documents: