Planning for the ‘what ifs’ of life


What if something suddenly happened to a loved one that left that person unable to express his or her medical wishes? Although it may not be easy, it is important to have conversations about how you would want to be treated in specific health or medical situations.


“We’ve learned a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic and how suddenly one’s health, regardless of age, can change,” said Dr. Susan Wang, regional medical director for Shared Decision Making, Life Care Planning & Serious Illness Care at Kaiser Permanente. “Making important care decisions for a family member or loved one can be difficult, especially if that person never shared how he or she would want to be cared for.”


For National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16th, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles is encouraging everyone to take three steps to better plan for their future and make their voice heard with Life Care Planning.


  1. Reflect on what matters most to you: Life care planning is about knowing what is most important to you and communicating how that affects your wishes for future health care. Spend some time thinking about what is most important to you, how you enjoy spending your time, whether you have cultural traditions or religious beliefs that may impact your decisions for medical care, and what circumstances would make life no longer worthwhile for you.


  1. Select someone to speak for you. An important part of life care planning is appointing a health care agent, such as a close family member, to make your health care decisions if you could not make them for yourself. A good health care agent is someone who knows you well, who you trust to understand your values, and who can act according to your wishes. They should also be able to understand information and make good decisions in stressful situations. Having thought about what you would want for future health care, the next step is sharing your values and health care wishes with your agent.


  1. Share your plan verbally and in writing. The best way to make your life care plan known is to share your wishes with the people in your life. Share it with your health care agent, other loved ones, friends, roommates, and Kaiser Permanente. Putting your plan in writing helps those caring for you to accurately remember your wishes so you get the care that you want. One way you can document your wishes is by completing an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD). Make a copy for yourself and keep it where it can be easily found. You can also give a copy to your doctor and discuss the contents of your AHCD to ensure that he or she understands all your wishes.


Kaiser Permanente members can register for a virtual Life Care Planning workshop by calling (323) 421-2710 or by visiting the Kaiser Permanente appointment center. To learn more about Life Care Planning, visit kp.org/lifecareplan.

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