The COVID-19 virus has uncovered many of our nation's issues: the vulnerability of the elderly, people of color, the impoverished, and the inadequacy of depending on job-based healthcare. It has also made the need for Advance Care Planning more immediate. One of the most difficult parts of this pandemic is the tragedy that people are separated from loved ones at the time when family support is most needed. Health care decisions need to be made quickly and in isolation.
An Advance Care Plan is the result of a series of conversations with loved ones. It includes a designation of whom you want to speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself. Once you have made that designation, it is important to draft a document that not only legally designates that person to speak for you, but more importantly, communicates your specific wishes, your values and what is important to you. Your healthcare Power of Attorney/Advocate needs to know what you would want under what circumstances. COVID-19 is certainly not the way we might have imagined an end to our life. There are so many decisions to be made: when and whether to go to the hospital, whether to be placed on a ventilator, whether to try some unproven therapies and the list goes on. This will require ongoing conversations with our advocate, especially as we gain more understanding about what we’re facing since this is an ever changing landscape.
Who would you want to speak for you if you couldn’t speak for yourself? Under what circumstances would you want to be put on a ventilator? When would you refuse? Under what circumstances would you want to be taken off a ventilator? Would you want to be put on unproven therapies?
If you are asked to make decisions for someone else, what will you want to know about the loved one’s wishes?
We are experiencing a unique opportunity to face our own mortality. When we get through to the other side of this pandemic, we will be better prepared to face the day that will come, the day of our last breath. May it be a long time from now.
For more information, link to "Being Prepared in the Time of COVID-19," which is located here: https://theconversationproject.org/covid19/. You may also wish to contact Missoula Aging Services at (406) 728-7682 for assistance or more information.
Brian and Kathy Derry, “Kitchen Table Conversations about End of Life” Cofounders
Gayle A. Hudgins, Missoula Aging Services Board Member
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