Plan and be prepared for your future health care needs
Even though I’m OK right now, I’ve been thinking about my health. I want to be prepared if I get sick, and I want you to be prepared, too.
That’s one way professionals at Atlantic Health System say you can start a difficult conversation with loved ones: about the care you want – and the care you do not want – if you have serious health problems. Having that conversation before a critical event can ease both the patient’s and the caregiver’s stress, because everyone will understand the person’s wishes ahead of time.
“We want people to explore what’s important to them when it comes to health care, how they define a good quality of life, and share that with their loved ones and doctors,” says Yvette Vieira, manager of palliative care and bioethics for Atlantic Health System. “Because the conversation can be difficult, Atlantic Health System has been putting a range of services in place to help.”
To support patients with long-term illnesses or injuries, Chilton Medical Center has expanded its multidisciplinary team that focuses on improving quality of life. The palliative care team includes physicians, an advanced practice nurse, nurse navigator, social worker and chaplain.
The team of specialists focuses on helping patients manage complex and challenging symptoms, such as nausea, pain, or shortness of breath,” says Laura Cima, PhD, RN, program director for palliative care at Chilton, “plus anxiety or other psychological issues that they might be dealing with.”
“We’ve found that what is most comforting to patients and families is knowing that we have support for them when making these decisions, that we have a team that’s experienced and we will take the time to fully explore their needs,” says Cima.
Starting the Conversation
Atlantic Health System offers a booklet called “Your Conversation Starter Kit,” created by an organization called The Conversation Project and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. It helps people organize their thoughts and share their decisions with loved ones even before a hospital stay.