Choosing the Level of Care You’re Comfortable With
You may be healthy or you may be struggling with chronic illness. Whatever your situation, you have the right to make your own medical choices. Unfortunately, accidents, illnesses and unforeseen events can affect anyone at any time. So it’s important to be prepared. Outlining your medical choices now ensures your wishes are followed and takes the burden off of loved ones who may be called upon to speak for you.
Today, with so many medical advances, we have many more choices about how we’d like to be cared for if a serious accident or illness occurs. Since it’s impossible to plan for every potential medical situation, it is important to talk with a person you trust about your personal values and preferences for your medical care. Because your wishes may change over time as your life circumstances change, it is important to revisit your wishes often and communicate any changes with your champions and your medical providers.
A good starting point for any conversation is to talk about where your preferences fall on this treatment scale:
|Let me die peacefully without medical intervention||Don't ever give up on me - try all available medical interventions|
There are other scales for treatment choices. Both The Conversation Project and Begin the Conversation have useful tool kits to help you think about your values and discuss your wishes with those you love.
General options to consider
If your primary goal is to live as long as possible, your doctor will use all available treatments to keep you alive. This may include CPR (to try and restart the heart and/or lungs if they stop working), a ventilator (breathing machine) or feeding tubes, depending on your needs.
Treatment – to a point
Some people want to be treated but don’t want extraordinary measures taken (such as treatment in the intensive care unit, feeding tubes or ventilators). If this is you, you may want an “in-between” level of care that designates what’s OK – and what’s not. For example, you may decide that intravenous (IV) fluids and monitors are acceptable, but ventilators are not. Or you may decide you would want to try a treatment, such as a ventilator, for a limited amount of time to see if works, but not forever.
If you are faced with a situation where a cure is not possible, you may choose to limit your medical care to only those activities that would keep you comfortable, such as wearing an oxygen mask or receiving medications for pain management.
These decisions tend to change over time, so it is important to update your wishes regularly.
For help in clarifying your values
The Go Wish game, developed by the Coda Alliance, helps you think about things that would matter most to you if you were dying. Playing the game with your Champion decision-maker and others involved in your life provides an easy and fun way to share those choices with the ones you love. When you’re done, you can print a copy of your wishes to share with others.