Monday, April 17, 2017
Week-long activities encourage people to complete advance healthcare directives and share their wishes in conversations with family and physicians
PITTSBURGH (April 17, 2017) — Highmark is adding its voice to the growing conversation about the importance of advance healthcare decision-making. Beginning on April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), and continuing throughout the week, Highmark will speak up to inspire, educate, and empower its members and employees to think through what their wishes would be in the event of a health care crisis, document them, and then share their wishes with their families and doctors.
"Be prepared and have a plan — that's my mantra and our care management teams know how critical it is to reinforce those concepts with our members," says Barbara Gray, R.N., senior vice president of clinical services.
The tools and conversations for advance care planning are used to identify and clarify end-of-life wishes and provide a clear roadmap to be followed in the event of a crisis.
"Think of it as a gift to your loved ones and yourself," Gray continued. "Having a plan helps avoid confusion, conflict, and guilt during a time that is already stressful and puts the focus on what you've determined is important to you."
"It's equally important that you share your wishes with your doctors and all those involved in your care," said Arvind Venkat, MD, FACEP, chair, Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) and Allegheny Health Network (AHN) ethics committees and attending physician, department of emergency medicine, AGH. "Physicians are becoming more attuned to incorporating patients' wishes into their delivery of care, but we cannot address your concerns and honor your requests if we don't know what they are. Indeed it's never too soon to have these important conversations with your doctor. Accidents and acute illness can happen to anyone at any time."
The National Healthcare Decisions Day website has a wealth of tools, resources and conversation prompts. The Conversation Starter Kit is designed to help individuals start and structure the conversation. There is a specialized Pediatric Starter Kit and one designed for families of people with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
The National Healthcare Decisions Day website also includes free advance directive forms for each state. Information on advance directives and the necessary forms is also available at Allegheny Health Network hospitals.
"When my grandmom passed away five years ago, we had not planned for it. As a result, she ended up going in and out of the hospital multiple times and suffering a lot at the end of her life," said Brad Smith, co-founder and CEO of Aspire Health which specializes in providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness. "Making sure you and your loved ones have a plan that is based on your own personal goals and priorities is critically important. Aspire is proud to be partnered with Highmark to provide its members who are facing a serious illness and their families with an extra layer of support. Often individuals have fear about the future, how they'll cope with uncontrolled symptoms, and confusion around the number of complex medical decisions that may need to be made. Helping facilitate conversations around these topics is part of what we do, and everyone regardless of health status can benefit from thinking through these important issues ahead of time."
"Working through the checklists and conversation prompts requires more than a single conversation — it is a process of planning and exploration," Gray added. "Honest dialogue — with yourself, your family and your doctors — is essential to help you feel confident and comfortable about the important decisions you are making."
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