Steps to begin advance care planning as a caregiver

Woman and her caregiver smile after preparing advanced care plan

As a caregiver, you have many responsibilities, including helping your loved one find the best possible care. As your loved one gets older, it’s important to have a plan in place for the care they would like to receive if injured or dealing with a serious illness. Following these steps is a great way to get started with advanced care planning.

Step 1: Listen to your loved one’s care goals and values 

Before starting a discussion about advanced care planning, work with the person being cared for to decide who should participate in the conversation and where you would all feel comfortable discussing these issues. This can help you visualize the conversation and plan a cadence for revisiting the subject. 

When you sit down to talk, it may help to have a few conversation starters prepared. The Conversation Project recommends asking about:

  • What a good day looks like for them
  • Who or what supports them in difficult times
  • What matters to them at end-of-life

And remember to be patient! You don’t have to figure everything out in one conversation, and your loved one can change their mind over time. It’s okay if you disagree. What matters is to keep talking and listening.

Step 2: Plan for the future

It’s important to have a plan in case your loved one is dealing with end-of-life care, chronic illness or Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Advance care planning includes determining the types of care your loved one would like to receive if unable to speak for themselves and formalizing these decisions in key legal documents.

A few of the most important documents in the process are:

  • durable power of attorney for health care or health care proxy naming those who can make decisions for your loved one
  • living will recording the medical treatment they would like to receive if unable to speak for themselves

Advance care directives may also include a Provider Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Form, which varies by state:

In North Carolina, you may also need to solidify advance instruction for mental health treatment through a Psychiatric Advance Directive

Step 3: Find out what your responsibilities will be as a caregiver

Health care power of attorney empowers a person or people to make medical decisions on their loved one’s behalf if they need a hospital stay, surgery, psychiatric treatment, home health services or other care. If you’re given medical power of attorney, you’ll make decisions about:

  • The kind of medical care your loved one receives
  • Which doctors and care providers they’ll use
  • Long-term care options, such as assisted living, memory care and nursing homes

A living will can cover other relevant decisions, like your loved one’s wishes to receive or deny life-prolonging treatments. Advance instruction for mental health treatment allows them to accept or refuse different mental health treatment modalities. These documents can help you understand what your loved one wants even if you’re not there.

If you need help navigating these responsibilities, reach out to our ApexAssistants at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711). 

Step 4: Encourage your loved one to safely store and update documents

After your loved one completes the forms, they should store them in a safe place like a safe, desk or drawer or list the location of all papers in a notebook. Update documents every 10 years or after major life changes, such as diagnosis with an illness, changes in marital status or changes to health care proxy. You can look for assistance in your local area, like the free advance directive workshops offered by Atrium Health. 

We want to make caregiving easier for you! If you have any questions, give us a call at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711) to speak with an ApexAssistant. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.

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