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Living Well with Benedictine offers insights into creating a health care directive

We plan so many aspects of our lives. As young adults, thoughts are of when and how we will complete our education, begin our first job, or buy our first home. Later, the focus may be on when and where to go on vacation, buy a vacation home or even retire.

Yet, we often don’t think about how we want to live our lives. Advance care planning is a process of planning for future medical decisions. The process includes reflection on what is most important in our lives – hopes, dreams and aspirations to live life to its fullest potential now and at the end of life, values and beliefs (cultural, religious, spiritual, and personal).

On April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day, Benedictine is encouraging people of all ages to express their wishes for their future medical care through a healthcare directive or POLST document.

In a recent Living Well with Benedictine webinar, Janna Kovach, Benedictine social services specialist, and Dr. Neal Buddensiek, Benedictine chief medical officer, discussed the importance of having a health care directive or POLST and offered tips to help prepare these vital documents. View the webinar here.

A health care directive is a written plan that outlines the individual’s goals, values and priorities for future medical treatment. Through the health care directive, a person makes their wishes known regarding future medical treatment and shares it with their loved ones, their health care team and their health care agent in the event.

No matter what your age, now is the time to have a conversation about your wishes for future medical care, because it always seems too early, until it’s too late.

Those who are seriously ill or have advanced frailty may also execute a POLST or Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment form. POLST forms must be filled out and signed by the individual’s health care provider. The POLST form informs other health care providers about the individual’s wishes for future medical care and follows the individual wherever they go for care.

“As hard as it may be to think about the end of one’s life, it really reduces stress for families when they know their loved one’s wishes when they can’t speak for themselves,” Kovach said. “Taking the time now to talk about what is most important and meaningful to you for your quality of life will ensure that your wishes are honored if you become unable to communicate them.”

Benedictine has trained facilitators and tools to guide residents and their families through these conversations. Check out our Resources for more information.