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The importance of advance care planning

By Karen Dickinson • Apr 16, 2018 at 2:00 AM

As we celebrate National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), it is a great time to talk about advance care planning. NHDD is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. This observance exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.

Currently, no more than one third of all American adults have an advance care plan in writing. This is particularly concerning because studies suggest that roughly 70 percent of Americans will be unable to make decisions for themselves at some point in their lives. This is why advance care planning is so important. This is not just important for the elderly, anyone can put advance directives into place.

Health crises can happen to anyone at any time.

What is Advanced Care Planning?

Advance care planning refers to when people proactively think about what their health care wishes would be if they were unable to speak for themselves at any time in the future, and communicate those wishes to others. Advanced care planning is important for people of all ages because anything can happen to anyone at any time and having a plan in place can help ensure that your health care wishes can be known and honored in any situation.

Advance directives are documents to direct medical care when patients are unable to communicate their own wishes due to a medical condition. In Ohio, do not resuscitate orders, living wills, organ donation and durable powers of attorney are advance directives that are authorized by state law.

The most common advance directive – a living will – is a legal document that dictates how much life-sustaining treatment an individual wishes to have administered once he or she has been deemed by physicians to be terminally ill or permanently unconscious, and unable to communicate his or her wishes. A health-care power of attorney is another common advance directive in which the individual designates another person to make medical decisions in the event he or she is unable to communicate wishes but may not be terminally ill or permanently unconscious.

In the absence of an advance directive, family members who disagree about end-of-life care could file an objection, leaving care decisions in the hands of a judge. By discussing your wishes with all family members and filling out advance directives, this can be avoided.

Completing Advance Directives

Any person over age 18, who can make his or her own decisions, can complete an advance directive form. You do not need a lawyer to complete advance directive forms for healthcare wishes. However, the forms need to be signed by a notary or two witnesses. The witness may include anyone except your physician, family members, administrator of a nursing home, or the person(s) you’re naming as decision maker in the advance directives.

For more information on Advance Directives and to download an Advance Directives Packet, visit http://www.midwestcarealliance.org/aws/LAO/asset_manager/get_file/116093/choices_6th_edition_lao_version.pdf.

Fisher Titus can assist anyone needing assistance in filling out these forms. To schedule an appointment, call 419-668-8101 and ask to speak with the social workers in the Quality & Clinical Resource office.


Karen Dickinson, BSN RN, is the assistant vice president of quality and clinical resource management for Fisher-Titus Medical Center.

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