As we continue to hear about people who have had COVID-19, both the remarkable recoveries and the unfortunate tragedies, it's clear that at any point in time a medical crisis could leave you too ill to make your own health care decisions.
Now is the time to make sure you're developing the plan of care you want even when doctors and family members are making the decisions for you.
WellSpan Health offers an advance care planning initiative called Horizon Planning. Horizon Planning encourages everyone in our community to make sure they have had conversations with their family and loved ones about what they would want and not want for care when they face an end of life health crisis.
"It's important to just have the conversation," said Roberta Geidner, manager of Horizon Planning and Advance Care Planning, WellSpan Health. "It's about what you value most and how you would want to live if you only had a few months, weeks, or days left in your life."
Before a crisis occurs, choose who you trust to speak for you when you cannot, Geidner says.
That person will have to communicate your wishes on very important decisions such as whether you stay at home or go to the hospital if you are close to death, and whether doctors should do everything they can to help you, even if it would not result in a meaningful life afterward.
Choosing more than one person is best, and it means having the people you choose agree to this responsibility. It can be a challenging role, even for those who know what you want.
Currently, the COVID-19 virus is disproportionately affecting older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults are much more at risk of dying and eight out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults aged 65 and older. In Pennsylvania, most COVID-19-related hospitalizations are of people aged 65 and older.
The CDC also indicates that the risk increases with age, and for those who have chronic conditions and serious progressive diseases.
It's important to remember that COVID-19 can impact anyone of any age, and so everyone should be prepared.
Horizon Planning Response Team members can assist individuals in completing advance care planning documents, including a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. The team can also help with creating a POLST (PA Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) if that is appropriate based on an individual's health condition.
"With these documents in the hands of a person’s health care providers, they can be sure that wishes will be followed, and that family members will know exactly what to do to help," said Geidner.
Geidner says having these conversations between families as well as care providers before a crisis is a valuable gift to yourself and to your family. Whether a health crisis arises from a car accident, a heart attack or stroke, or a serious illness like COVID-19, WellSpan Horizon Planning wants you to be prepared at the end of your life to meet dying on your terms.
For more information, please call WellSpan Horizon Planning at (717) 812-6065, visit Wellspan.org/HorizonPlanning, or find information through the MyWellSpan patient portal using the Horizon Planning link.