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Healthy You

The Vital Health Document Most Patients Don’t Have

Thursday, April 19, 2018 10:52 AM

As former First Lady Barbara Bush neared the end of her life, the 92-year-old let it be known she didn’t want any more dramatic medical interventions to reverse her condition, and instead opted for what a Bush family spokesperson described as “comfort care.” Her decision has highlighted a challenging issue in healthcare today: the importance of having an advance care plan on file in case you become seriously ill or unable to make health care decisions for yourself.

NorthShore patients

NorthShore patients discuss their experience with advance care planning and the impact it has had on their lives.

It’s estimated that close to two-thirds of Americans have no advance care directive on file. “An advance care plan is just as important for someone who’s young and healthy as for someone who has a serious illness,” said Michael Marschke, MD, a hospice and palliative medicine specialist at NorthShore. “Unforeseen things can happen to anyone.”

NorthShore has developed resources to help patients navigate what can be a difficult issue. NorthShore’s Advance Care Planning program offers informative videos patients can watch, and access to resources both at NorthShore and in the community. There’s also an Advance Care Planning Guidebook that walks patients through the process and can help them reflect on their wishes and who they would want making medical decisions for them, and how they would want to be treated in the hospital. It also provides guidance on talking to loved ones and a patient’s medical team, and helps them decide what they want and put it in writing.

The most important steps, according to Dr. Marschke:  

  • Obtain and complete an Advance Care Planning guidebook from NorthShore
  • Choose a surrogate or proxy you trust to make medical decisions for you
  • Talk to your loved ones about your values and goals
  • Talk to your healthcare team, too, about your goals