Regence palliative care expert weighs in on the importance of advance care planning on National Healthcare Decisions Day
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted our habits and routines, including how we manage our health and receive care. What hasn’t changed, however, is the need to plan ahead for unexpected health emergencies.
April 16 is recognized as National Healthcare Decisions Day—a chance to educate ourselves about the importance of advance care planning.
At its core, advance care planning involves deciding what kind of care you would want if you face a serious illness or diagnosis. Dr. April Krutka, Regence’s Palliative Care Medical Director, shares more about the importance of prioritizing advance care planning, both on National Healthcare Decisions Day and year-round.
Advance care planning starts with a conversation
A critical component of advance care planning is engaging in what palliative care experts call Goals of Care conversations, which help you express what matters most to you. It’s something to do when you’re well—not only when you’re sick—so your health care provider, family and close friends understand your values, desires and wishes.
“We can’t plan for everything,” Krutka says. “But we can talk about what is most important—in our life, and in our health care—with our loved ones before the situation becomes critical.”
Krutka recommends you begin these conversations by taking time to reflect and write down what matters most to you. This could include answers to questions like: What brings you joy in life? What is most important to you every day? What are the things in your life that you couldn’t live without?
Once you’ve had time to reflect and have conversations, choose a person you feel comfortable with to make decisions and act on your behalf if you become unable to speak for yourself. This person is known as your health care proxy and should be someone you trust to make decisions based on your goals, not theirs.
“Remember, goals of care conversations are centered around you and what matters most to you,” Krutka says, “I would encourage you to have these conversations now, when you are healthy.”
Finally, turn these conversations into action by sharing this information with your medical provider, family and friends. Depending on your situation, you may want to establish a living will, a Medical Power of Attorney document, or a physician’s orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) form. You can speak with your doctor or a lawyer about what forms you need.
Resources are available to guide advance care planning conversations
For over a decade, The Conversation Project has championed advance care planning conversations and encouraged people to talk about their care wishes so they are understood and respected. The organization offers a number of helpful online resources for individuals and health care professionals, including a new COVID-19 conversation guide to help people navigate the advance care planning process with today’s challenges in mind.
“Remember, goals of care conversations are centered around you and what matters most to you,” Krutka says, “I would encourage you to have these conversations now, and not wait until it’s too late.”
Regence advance care planning resources
Most Regence health plans include coverage for palliative care through our Personalized Care Support program. This member benefit covers:
- Adult and pediatric palliative care case management, including help with care coordination and benefit navigation with nurses through telephone support
- Home health medical, which supports daily living activities
- Psychosocial support, including at-home individual, family and marriage counseling
- Caregiver support, even if the caregiver is not a Regence member
- Reimbursement of goals of care/advance care planning (ACP) conversations for providers and members
- To support our Medicare Advantage members, we cover goals of care/advance care planning conversations at no cost share ($0 copay), regardless of the visit type or place of service
For more information, visit regence.com or talk to a member of our Customer Service team by calling the number on the back of your member ID card.