Whether you’re 20 or 80, healthy or sick, there is an important conversation you need to have with your doctor at your next annual exam.
It’s not a conversation about your current health concerns, but about your future ones.
It’s a conversation about Advance Care.
Advance Care Planning involves thinking about the types of medical decisions you will want made for you if you are in a situation where you cannot state them yourself.
Sound like a depressing topic? It doesn’t have to be. This is a time for you to think about and communicate your personal values and desires regarding end-of-life care.
If you’re receiving Medicare benefits, this conversation is even covered. Medicare will pay Advance Care Planning at your Welcome to Medicare Exam and at each Annual Wellness Visit.
The Advance Directive
The specific decisions you make are written into a legal document called an advance directive.
Some of the decisions in an advance directive could include whether you want to be put on a ventilator if you cannot breathe on your own, and whether you want CPR if your heart stops.
Bear in mind that these decisions are not set in stone. You can change them at any time, if your situation, your health, or your feelings change.
The Healthcare Proxy
You may have difficulty considering what you would want at some unknown future point, especially if you are currently in good health. For these reasons, it is best to designate a healthcare proxy, someone who you can trust to make medical decisions for you.
Your healthcare proxy might be a relative, but it doesn’t have to be. You might feel that a close friend or someone in your spiritual community might have a better sense of your values — and might have a clearer head in an emergency.
Both the advance directive and healthcare proxy form are legal documents, but in New Jersey they do not need to be notarized or completed by a lawyer. You can find these forms, as well as more information about advance directives and healthcare proxies in New Jersey by clicking here.
If you have Medicare coverage, the best time to have these discussions with your doctor is at the Welcome to Medicare visit or at your Annual Wellness Visit, when Medicare will cover the entire cost. But if you have missed that opportunity this year, don’t let that stop you. Medicare will still cover Advance Care Planning through Medicare Part B.