The gift of Life Care Planning
Kaiser Permanente encourages adult members to have an important conversation about planning for future health care decisions. Learn more about Life Care Planning.
Earlier this year, James McNorton met with a Kaiser Permanente nurse to plan an important gift for his children.
The 77-year-old former guidance counselor and football coach sat down with Life Care Planning Facilitator Toni Deering, RN, while one of his sons participated by conference call. The main goal was to discuss and document McNorton’s wishes for future health care decisions so that if the time comes, he will receive care that’s consistent with his values and beliefs. For McNorton, a longtime Kaiser Permanente member, another important aim was to ensure that his children would have peace of mind.
McNorton has a history of heart disease, but he said he had never thought deeply about what kind of health care he would want should he be in a serious situation where he couldn’t speak for himself.
“This takes the burden off my family,” McNorton said. “I think it’s a great thing, and my son appreciates it too. He said he was glad to know what I would want and what I wouldn’t.”
Care Based on Your Values
National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16. It’s a day dedicated to educating the public about the importance of Life Care Planning, also known as advance care planning.
Planning starts with choosing someone who will represent your health care wishes if you have an accident or unexpected illness and you can’t speak for yourself. It’s important to have a conversation with that person about what you would want, and Kaiser Permanente Life Care Planning facilitators can help with that talk. Finally, it’s recommended that you document your wishes in an Advance Health Care Directive, have the document witnessed or notarized, and share a copy with your health care provider.
As an Emergency Department physician at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael and a physician lead for Life Care Planning, Scott Schmidt, MD, knows it’s important for people to have these conversations early so that critical decisions are not based on guesswork.
“In a moment of crisis, it’s hard to make decisions — especially when a family member is deciding on behalf of a loved one who can’t speak for himself or herself and has not talked with them about personal values related to health care decisions,” he said.
When a patient in crisis comes in who has participated in Life Care Planning, Dr. Schmidt said the situation is quite different.
“I can provide the care the patient wants, and the family understands that we’re acting according to the patient’s wishes,” he said. “It shifts from being chaotic and anxiety producing for everyone, to be being peaceful, respectful, and dignified.”