Most of us don’t like to think about our health deteriorating, much less talk about it. Do you know what you would like to have happen if you could not care for yourself? Make these decisions easier for your loved ones by talking about them now. If you’re having trouble broaching the subject, consider these suggestions:
- Have a talk with yourself. As odd as that may sound, you need to sort out how you feel about potential healthcare needs and “worst case” scenarios. What are you afraid of? Do you fear pain or being on too much medication to know what’s going on? Are you scared that you’ll be alone? Or maybe your fear is being a burden to your family? Thinking about such questions can make discussing your feelings easier.
- Research your options. Take the time to learn about the healthcare resources in your own community. “Knowing and having familiarity with the resources available does not commit you to needing or using those services,” explains Joleen Johnson, LSW, Redwood Area Hospital social worker. “It does give you a working knowledge to guide and direct you and your family if the time should come that you need those services.”
- Consider chronic conditions. Many chronic conditions come with serious risks. Consider the risk and future progression of a chronic disease. Make sure your loved ones know your medications. If you have diabetes, what would you want to have happen if the “worst case” scenario happened and you had a stroke with a long recovery ahead?
- Consider financial influences. Talk to your financial planner about these “what if” scenarios and what you could do now to possibly help ease financial concerns later on. “Health insurance coverage and Medicare will likely change long before a ‘worst case’ event may happen, but what won’t change is the likelihood that finances will add stress to an already stressful situation,” Johnson explains.
- Make out an advance directive. Ask your doctor for advice about an advance directive (a document that spells out exactly what care you wish to receive) so there’s no confusion. Download directive forms here.
- Find a way to talk about it with family members. Not everyone will be comfortable talking about the “what ifs.” You may want to use a story or a discussion about a past family experience to segue into the conversation. Share your concerns, desires and make a plan together.
- Share your decisions with your loved ones. Make sure they understand your wishes—such as a desire to stop treatment if it’s no longer helping—before they have to decide for you. This will decrease anxiety and confusion during an already stressful time.
Learn about services in your community and when you may want to take advantage of those services during your healthcare journey. Remember, it’s always okay to ask your doctor how you can receive your care locally. Many outpatient services such as lab and imaging results can be sent to an out-of-town physician without you needing to travel.
- Skilled Swing Bed helps provide transitional care to patients who are recovering from acute hospitalization but still need some skilled nursing care or rehab.
- Home Care provides skilled nursing or rehab care in the home.
- Adult Day Services provides medical, social, physical, intellectual, and recreational activities for older or disabled adults who need extra support to remain independent.
- Hospice provides end-of-life care and support in whatever setting a client calls home.
- The Cancer Care Center provides cancer treatment close to home while working directly with your oncologist from a larger medical facility.
- Rehab offers a variety of services to get you back to living life, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, cardiac rehab and respiratory therapy.