End-of-Life Care: The Most Important Conversation You’ll Ever Have
Sutter Health and Sutter Care at Home Say "Have the Talk" on National Healthcare Decisions Day to Share End-of-Life Desires
SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 16, 2012 - Do you know your parents’ wishes if they become seriously ill? Have you talked with your adult children about your wishes in the event you become gravely ill? End-of-life conversations are among the most difficult yet important you can have with your loved ones. Experts across the Sutter Health network encourage you to “have the talk” today – National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD).
Roger and Lori’s Story
Ten years after suffering a massive heart attack, 59-year-old Roger Floyd of Roseville finds comfort in the little things – the occasional view out his living room window or the array of colors in his tulip-filled garden on a spring day. Roger receives hospice services through Sutter Health’s home health care affiliate Sutter Care at Home (SCAH). Roger and his wife Lori say they’re able to better enjoy his final days because they had open and thoughtful discussions about his wishes at the end of life.
Learning the importance of advance health care decision-making following her father’s death last year helped prompt Lori to discuss end-of life-desires with Roger and complete an advance directive, a way to document personal health care wishes when an individual is unable to speak for themselves or prefers that someone else speak for them. “Roger and I didn’t want to talk about it – we were putting it off,” she said, noting that Aja Oakman-Mahaffey, a medical social worker through Sutter Care at Home, spent many hours discussing this important topic with them and made it easier for them to take action. “My father had filled one out, but he and I had never talked about what he wanted,” she said. “Because he had written down what he wanted, we had some sort of guideline about his wishes. It’s so hard if you don’t have that conversation or don’t have something in writing about what someone wants, especially when you’re going through so many emotions and facing hard decisions.”
Barriers to Difficult Conversations
Brad Stuart, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Sutter Care at Home and a national leader in end-of-life care, says people resist completing an advance health care directive for many reasons.
Rosemary Gerber, a program manager for the Advanced Illness Management (AIM) program implemented by Sutter Care at Home, says having a strategy may make the conversation easier.
How to Prepare an Advance Directive
An advance directive (AD) is a document outlining your personal health care wishes should you become unable to speak for yourself. In an AD, you can also designate who you want to make decisions about your medical care should you be unable to do so.
Steps to Take Today
- Get clear on what you want – or what you don’t want – Before you talk with friends and family, and before you start filling out an advance directive, look inward. Think about what’s important to you and what you would want to happen if you were no longer able to make decisions for yourself.
2) Talk with your family – If you haven’t completed an advance directive or communicated your wishes, your family may be placed in the stressful position of making a difficult choice about your medical care without understanding your desires. Your loved ones can feel more confident during a health crisis if they know what you want.
- Talk to your doctor – Be proactive and have an honest conversation with your primary care provider. Get your questions answered early and alleviate any concerns you may have.
- Fill out your advance directive – Once you know what you want, complete an advance directive (download a template from NDHDD). Keep a copy for yourself; give one to your doctor and your family.
- Sutter Health’s AIM program featured in the Wall Street Journal
- Templates, videos and more resources available at www.nhdd.org
- Advance Health Care Directive Fact Sheet (PDF), Coalition for Compassionate Care of California
About National Healthcare Decisions Day
Coordinated by the National Hospice Foundation, National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) exists to inspire, educate and empower everyone – regardless of age or health status – about the importance of advance care planning and to encourage individuals to express their wishes regarding their health care choices. According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, less than 50 percent of the severely or terminally ill patients studied in a 2003 project had an advance directive in their medical record.
About Sutter Health
Serving patients and their families in more than 100 Northern California cities and towns, Sutter Health doctors, not-for-profit hospitals and other health care service providers share resources and expertise to advance health care quality and access. The Sutter Medical Network includes many of California’s top-performing, highest quality physician organizations as measured annually by the Integrated Healthcare Association. Sutter-affiliated hospitals are regional leaders in cardiac care, women’s and children’s services, cancer care, orthopedics and advanced patient safety technology.
About Sutter Care at Home
Sutter Care at Home (SCAH) – formerly Sutter VNA & Hospice – is one of the largest, not-for-profit home health care agencies in Northern California. As an affiliate of Sutter Health, SCAH is leading the transformation of home care to achieve the highest levels of quality, access and affordability. Since its beginning in 1906, SCAH has enhanced the health and well-being of the community through a commitment to compassion and excellence to home-based services and products. SCAH offers personalized care to patients through home health care, hospice, home medical equipment and respiratory care, home infusion therapy, private and geriatric care, Lifeline medical alert services, and community flu and wellness programs. With dedicated teams of health care providers caring for more than 50,000 patients each year, SCAH offers local service through branch offices in 12 counties.
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