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    Wellness and preventative medicine

    Plan ahead and live fully with advance care planning

    How an advanced care plan helps communicate your preferences when you’re unable to.

    Discussing advanced directives

    Imagine you’re solo hiking on a beautiful day. You’re treading down a familiar path when your foot catches a root, and you tumble down a steep hill. Other hikers call for help, and you’re transported, unconscious, to the nearest hospital. Your loved ones are notified and presented with potential care options. The stress of not knowing your preferences makes them argue, and precious life-saving time is wasted.

    For those 18 years and older, creating advance care plans can help avoid situations like this. While it may not be the easiest topic, discussing these plans with loved ones is worth the time and effort. It’s a step toward honoring your preferences during uncertain times.

    Dr. Saloni Shah from Intermountain Medical Center provided guidance on approaching advance directives. “If there's one thing that we all have in common, it's our mortality,” she said.

    What is advance care planning?

    Advance care planning, or ACP, is all about making choices now for your healthcare, especially if you can't speak for yourself later. It involves thinking about the medical care you would want if you were too sick or hurt to express your wishes. Once you record and share these plans, they help you maintain control over your healthcare.

    “When you sit down with your loved ones and talk about what brings you meaning and joy, that makes it easier for them to make decisions for you should an unfortunate situation arise,” Dr Shah said. 

    It’s important to note that ACP is not just for older adults or those with serious illness. It's for anyone who wants to have a say in their medical care, regardless of age or health status. None of us can predict the future, but ACP empowers you to prepare for it.

    How do I create an advance care plan?

    To create your own ACP, follow these five simple steps:

    Step 1: THINK

    • Think about what matters most to you (values, wishes, and beliefs) before an emergency, accident, or sudden illness occurs

    Step 2: TALK

    • Talk about your values, wishes, and beliefs with those closest to you (family, friends, doctors)

    Step 3: CHOOSE

    • Choose an advocate – someone you trust to make sure you get your requested care when you can’t speak for yourself

    Step 4: RECORD

    • Record your preferences and who will make medical decisions for you in an advance care directive

    Step 5: SHARE

    • Share your document with your healthcare providers. Your doctor can help make sure your plan is placed in your electronic medical record.

    “When that patient is able to tell me, this is the person, or these are the two or three people that I want making medical decisions for me, then that's what I trust and listen to,” said Dr. Shah.

    Your preferences and circumstances may change over time, so make sure you update your ACP regularly. Life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or a change in health status can impact your decisions. Make sure your healthcare providers and loved ones know where to find your advance directive and understand your current wishes.

    "It's always too early, until it's too late," said Dr. Shah.

    To learn more about ACP and advance directives, visit this page. Don't wait until it's too late – start your advance care planning journey now.