Myths about Advance Care Plans
Everyone - and I mean everyone - aged 18 and up should have an Advance Care Plan. In the end, it's all about making sure that your voice is heard, your wishes are respected as optimally as possible, and that you get what you need in order to be able to live until you die. It's about quality of life, right until the end. But, some of you may not think an Advance Care Plan is necessary, so let's look at some myths around advance care planning.
Myth: I'm healthy, so I don't need one.
Fact: Death is a 100% certainly for all of us; we just don't know when our time will be up. Sudden death from a traffic accident has always been an example of a reason to do advance planning. However, as COVID-19 has shown us, even the wealthiest of stars and the healthy marathon runners without preexisting conditions can be afflicted. It is already traumatizing enough for the families of those who die unexpectedly. Having your end of life wishes documented can reduce any additional burdens on your family when they are already feeling overwhelmed.
Myth: I'm young, so I don't need one.
Fact: Again, as COVID-19 has shown us, everyone should be prepared. In even as early as young adulthood, you probably have an idea of what you would want your end of life to look like - what songs you want to hear one last time, what significant items you have of meaning that you want to be able to give to someone else if you have the chance, what songs or readings you want at your funeral. You might not have a large financial savings portfolio to have a will and power of attorney yet, but you still have a lot to give and share at your end of life and you have an identity and life that is unique to you. Document your wishes, so you can live your unique life fully until the end of your life.
Myth: I have an Advance Directive and Will, so I don't need anything else.
Fact: Congratulations on being prepared to the extent that you are! You're ahead of far too many people who don't have either in place. However, that's not all there is. Advance Directives are very specific to your heroic medical treatments such as CPR, and your Will is specific to your finances and assets. Neither speaks to where you will spend your final days - in a hospice or a family member's home, for example, or whether you would like direct cremation with your ashes scattered in specific places while certain music is played, or if you want a particular Shakespearean sonnet read while you are actively dying. Advance Care Plans and Expressed Wishes cover all the emotional, spiritual, psychological, and comfort sustaining aspects of your final days (and disposition thereafter).
Myth: My family knows what I want, so I don't need one.
Fact: Unfortunately, there are far too many instances of family members arguing, across a hospital bed over their resting loved one, trying to debate what Mom or Dad would want. Although there are clearly delineated lines of hierarchy for substitute decision-makers, when your family discusses your care amongst themselves, arguments often break out. End of Life Doulas can help mediate and keep the peace during these incredibly stressful times, but the angst and anguish your family members are already feeling can be minimized by ensuring that your wishes are crystal clear, in a plan. Assuming that they know your wishes can end up with you being on a ventilator indefinitely when it's not your wish, or having a large funeral when you'd prefer a small ceremony and the scattering of ashes. Whatever your wishes are, make sure you have them clearly laid out so your family members and your healthcare team can respect these as much as possible.
If any of the above myths resonated with you and made you think twice about how prepared you are or are not, please don't hesitate to contact me. We can have a brief consultation and discuss reviewing your pre-existing plans or how to begin if you are just starting out.