There are times when we must have difficult conversations with aging or unhealthy family members, which often involve more than the execution of legal documents. In some cases, these discussions might even include communication with multiple family member and physicians.
Gerontologists (medical professionals that focus on the care and the treatment of the elderly) describe this concept as advance care planning. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) explains advance care planning as follows:
“Advance care planning is a broader, less legally focused concept than that of advanced directives. It encompasses not only preparation of legal documents, but also discussions with family members and physicians about what the future may hold for people with serious illnesses, how patients and families want their beliefs and preferences to guide decisions . . ., and what steps could alleviate concerns related to finances, family matters, spiritual questions, and other issues that trouble seriously ill or dying patients and their families.”
(IOM, 1997, 198-199)
There are many tools available that can help you and your loved one think about the important questions related to health care decisions, which include: