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Why it’s important to discuss end of life treatment options now

Discussing treatment options with a loved one whose dying isn’t an easy task, but during National Healthcare Decisions Week, an expert says doing so in advance can help avoid the extra stress later on.

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Palliative care expert Dr. Dana Lustbader M.D. with ProHealth New York, says advance care planning is something everybody should be doing now even if you’re healthy.

“Everyone over the age of 18 should have a health care proxy,” said Lustbader. “They should pick someone that they trust who could make medical decisions for them in case something should happen unexpectedly, and they find themselves in a position where they can’t make medical decisions.”

She adds things like appointing a medical decision maker in advance will ensure your wishes are fulfilled.

Even if you have a clean bill of health now, almost never get sick or aren’t even accident prone she says accidents and tragedies can happen at any time, so appointing someone to be a health care proxy and filling out the forms is a necessity.

“It’s an important thing to do for everybody because life is unpredictable,” said Lustbader. “Sometimes things happen that render us unable to make our own decisions.”

She adds the reason it’s so important to make that advanced appointment is to have someone you trust entirely carry out the decisions you’d make if you were able to do so.

Getting the conversation started with a loved one, whether it’s for yourself or for them isn’t easy and could be somewhat awkward, but Lustbader suggest starting our by just asking them what their long term wishes are.

“‘Could you tell me what things are most important to you and what things you would never want to live without?…give me a couple of examples,” Lustbader suggests.

If someone is terminally or seriously ill or injured, she suggests asking more detailed questions about how they want to live out their final days so a healthcare proxy can be properly filled out.

She encourages again getting the process started sooner rather than later, especially while your healthy and thriving.

“Everyone who is over 18 and otherwise healthy ask your primary doctor for a healthcare proxy form, or google it and download it from your state website, but everyone should get it,” said Lustbader.

She adds those who are more terminally ill should speak more in depth with their doctor about filling out an NJ POLST form so that your wishes are followed properly.

For more information on how to get the conversation started with your loved one and doctor or just on what the process is all about, Lustbader suggests viewing theconversationproject.org and www.optumcare.com.

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