This COVID-19 pandemic brings us face-to-face with our mortality. Especially in hard-hit areas, it is painfully evident that everyone is at risk with this unpredictable infection, and even young and healthy people may die in a relatively short period. Because of this, every one of your clients needs to complete or update their advance directives, including living wills and healthcare powers of attorney, clearly stating their wishes for the type and extent of treatment they want if they become infected. You distinguish yourself in the field when you facilitate this.
First, explain to your clients that these documents only take effect if they are unable to make their own decisions, i.e., if they become too ill. Completing these forms accomplishes two things: It helps the client maintain as much control as possible over their own life and medical care, and it removes from their family the burden of having to make medical decisions without knowing what the client wants.
Here are two exceptionally helpful resources to distribute to clients to help them gain the information they need to understand their choices and make wise decisions. The Conversation Project COVID resources. This entire website is awash with videos, tips, and helpful information. They also have a downloadable PDF with COVID-specific information.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization published a new tool that factors in age, comorbidities and current symptoms to determine a person’s likelihood of survival should they contract the virus, along with education on what it means to be put on a ventilator and what life post-ventilator is likely to be like. This especially helps clients with advanced age or underlying illness to consider whether they want to go to the hospital if they have a severe COVID-19 infection or stay at home with the support of hospice or palliative care services.
Make these resources available to your clients. Then ensure they write down the treatment they do or do not want in a living will form. Even more importantly, ensure they appoint a power of attorney for healthcare (aka healthcare proxy) – the person they choose to make medical decisions for them if they are unconscious, too ill, or otherwise incapable of making those decisions themselves. Finally, take one last crucial step and make sure your clients actually discuss their wishes with the person they appoint, so there doesn’t have to be guilt, second-guessing, or regrets when choices are made. Every decision can, to the greatest extent possible, be in line with what your client wants.
Set yourself apart. Provide this invaluable education. Then follow through and help clients retain the highest possible level of control, even in cases of severe COVID-19 infection.
While you’re at it, make sure you do all of this for yourself too!