Whether you’re 20 or 80, healthy or sick, you need to have this conversation at your next annual exam.
It’s not about your current health concerns, it’s about your future ones.
Advance Care Planning involves thinking about the types of medical decisions you will want made for you if you are in a situation where you cannot state them yourself.
Sound morbid? It doesn’t have to be. This is a time for you to think about and communicate your personal values and desires about end-of-life care.
If you are receiving Medicare benefits, Medicare will pay for Advance Care Planning at your Welcome to Medicare Exam — and again at each Annual Wellness Visit.
The Advance Directive
The specific decisions you make are written into a legal document called an advance directive.
An advance directive might include whether you want to be put on a ventilator if you cannot breathe on your own, and whether you want CPR if your heart stops.
It is important to remember that these decisions are not set in stone. You can change them at any time — and likely will — as your situation, your health, or your feelings change.
The Healthcare Proxy
If you are currently young and in good health, it may be difficult to imagine what you would want at some unknown future point. For these reasons, it is best to designate a healthcare proxy, someone you trust to make medical decisions for you.
Your healthcare proxy might be a relative, but it doesn’t have to be. You might feel that a close friend or a person in your spiritual community might have a better sense of your values — and a clearer head in a medical emergency.
Both the advance directive and healthcare proxy form are legal documents, and how they are witnessed varies from state to state. Sometimes they even need to be notarized.
If you have Medicare coverage, the best time to have these discussions with your doctor is at the Welcome to Medicare visit or at your Annual Wellness Visit, when Medicare will cover the entire cost. But if you have missed that opportunity this year, don’t let that stop you. These are important decisions! Medicare’s Plan B also covers Advance Care Planning.