Talking to Your Physician

Talk to your physician

Even if you are young and healthy, it is important to have an advance care planning conversations. Talk with your physician.

Introduction

Talking to your physician about end-of-life care is an important step in ensuring that your healthcare preferences are understood and respected. If you are over age 65 and/or you have a serious chronic illness, it is even more important to have this conversation with your physician.  If you have Medicare, your insurance will pay for you and your physician to have a conversation about your end of life wishes or concerns.  Your physician will be grateful for the opportunity to know your desires should you become terminally ill or unable to speak for yourself. These steps are designed to help you have meaningful conversations with your physician about end-of-life planning, building on the assumption that your physician is already informed about the importance of these discussions.

Discussing End-of-Life Care with your Physician

When discussing end-of-life care with your physician, it’s important to recognize that as death nears, most patients share similar goals. These goals include maximizing time with family and friends, avoiding hospitalization and unnecessary procedures, maintaining functionality, and minimizing pain.

By openly acknowledging these shared objectives, you can guide the conversation with your physician to ensure that your care preferences are clearly understood and aligned with your values and wishes. This approach can help facilitate a more meaningful and productive dialogue with your physician, allowing you to express your end-of-life care preferences in a clear and informed manner.

By acknowledging these common goals, you can work together with your physician to develop a care plan that reflects your values and will provide the support you need during this important stage of life. This conversation can be an opportunity for your physician to obtain a copy of your Advance Directive, to discuss the POLST, if appropriate, and other treatment options, such as palliative care or hospice, should they become appropriate for you.

 

Advance Care Planning Resources:

End of Life Choices California has numerous resources for you including Advance Directives, Living Will, DNRs, POLST forms, and a Dementia directive. We are also available to support your individual needs by making a support request and contacting us directly.

 
It is never too early to provide a “road map” for your physician and your loved ones to let them know what matters most to you and to guide your care.

 

Contact a Volunteer

If you have questions, would like to discuss advance care planning further, or need help preparing your advance directives, please contact us.  A volunteer will follow up with you to find out how we can assist.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
About Talking to Your Physician

What is Advance Care Planning (ACP), and why is it important?

Advance Care Planning (ACP) involves discussing and documenting your healthcare preferences for future treatment, especially concerning end-of-life care. It’s important because it ensures your healthcare wishes are known and respected, particularly in situations where you may not be able to communicate them yourself. Learn more about advance care planning.

How do I start a conversation about end-of-life care with my physician?

  • Initiating a discussion about end-of-life care with your physician is essential for ensuring your care aligns with your wishes. To start, schedule a dedicated appointment, clearly stating your intention for the meeting. Bring any preliminary documents or questions to facilitate a productive conversation. Importantly, Medicare Part B covers voluntary advance care planning during your yearly Wellness visit, or as part of your medical treatment, provided your doctor accepts Medicare assignment. This benefit, available to anyone with Medicare, supports conversations about your preferences for end-of-life care, emphasizing the importance of planning regardless of your current health status. Remember, advance care planning is crucial at any age, as unforeseen medical crises can occur, leaving you unable to communicate your health care decisions.

What documents should I prepare for an Advance Care Planning discussion?

Prepare an advance directive, which includes a living will that outlines your treatment preferences and a durable power of attorney for healthcare to appoint a decision-maker if you’re unable to communicate. More on advance directives.

Can my family members or caregivers participate in the conversation with my physician?

Yes, involving family members or caregivers in these discussions can be beneficial. They can offer support, help articulate your wishes, and ensure they understand your preferences for end-of-life care.

What if my physician is uncomfortable with or avoids the topic of end-of-life planning?

If your physician seems uncomfortable, express the importance of these discussions for your peace of mind. If necessary, consider seeking a consultation with a palliative care specialist who is trained in these conversations, or talk to one of our volunteers. Request Support.

How can I communicate my personal values and healthcare preferences effectively?

Be clear and direct about your values and preferences. Consider writing down your thoughts beforehand and using tools like The Conversation Project or The Completed Life Initiative to help articulate your wishes in a way that aligns with your values.

What are the legal implications of my advance care directives?

Advance care directives are legally recognized documents that guide your healthcare when you’re unable to make decisions yourself. Their legal standing varies by state, so it’s important to ensure they comply with your state’s laws. More on Advance Care Directives.

How often should I review and update my end-of-life care plan?

Review and update your plan every few years or whenever you experience a significant change in your health status, personal values, or life circumstances to ensure it reflects your current wishes.

What should I do if I change my healthcare provider or move to a different state?

Inform your new healthcare provider about your advance care planning documents and discuss your end-of-life wishes with them. Since laws vary by state, review your documents to ensure they’re still valid or if updates are necessary.

How can I ensure that my end-of-life wishes are respected and followed?

Share your advance directive with your healthcare proxy, family members, and healthcare providers. Consider having discussions with them to ensure they understand and are willing to advocate for your wishes.

Further Reading & Resources

Additional Resources for End of Life Planning

Books:

Websites:

  • The Conversation Project (theconversationproject.org): Offers tools to start conversations about end-of-life care.
  • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (nhpco.org): Provides resources and information on hospice and palliative care.
  • Aging with Dignity (agingwithdignity.org): Offers Five Wishes, an easy-to-use legal advance directive document.
  • Advance Care Planning: HealthCare Directive (prepareforyourcare.org): An interactive website that guides individuals through the process of advance care planning.

Articles:

“We found your presentation very useful and informative for our situation. My husband was diagnosed with glioblastoma a few months ago. And we will pursue it with his doctors.” J. and S.

End of life choices California


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