HEALTH PERSPECTIVE: Why advanced care planning is so important

Health issues can begin to surface at any age, but are certainly more prominent as people advance into their later years. Those health issues can leave the patient and their family with difficult decisions to make — depending on the severity of a disease or illness.

People plan for all types of things throughout their lives, whether it’s their career, getting married, having kids and many other things. However, as people get older, they really have no plans in terms of what their care should look like in the event they become sick or can no longer make decisions for themselves.

People should really consider advanced care planning — looking ahead to their future health and making decisions that are right for them and their family. People are living longer and therefore it’s important for people to plan ahead.

One part of advanced care planning is an advance directive. This document allows someone to name a person who can make medical decisions for them in the event they are badly injured or seriously ill and cannot make those decisions on their own. A living will often accompanies an advance directive and details to your family the kind of treatments you do and do not want to receive in the event you can no longer speak on your behalf. This can include resuscitation, being on a ventilator, feeding tube, and other means of keeping a person alive. These documents can be shared with your doctor and placed within your medical file in the event a doctor needs to review them.

All adults should have someone whom you trust to make decisions for you in the event something happens by completing an advance directive. As you approach your senior years or start to develop a chronic illness, that’s when you should probably start thinking about a living will.

Palliative care is also part of the advance care planning process and additionally helps provide relief of symtoms related to a serious illness. Palliative care helps patients and their families understand treatment plans, reduce the number of hospital visits, control pain and improve a person’s quality of life. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and COPD are just some of the diagnoses that can benefit from palliative care.

We have a team of doctors and nurses who work with your regular doctor to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is appropriate for any person at any age who is at any stage of a serious disease or illness.

Dr. Russ Granich is the regional medical director for palliative care at MidState Medical Center and The Hospital of Central Connecticut. For more information, call 860-224-5463 or visit 

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