Gerber Memorial Spotlights Free Advance Care Planning
FREMONT – Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is shining a spotlight on the importance of advance care planning as the nation observes a week devoted to educating people about expressing their healthcare wishes through preemptive planning.
National Healthcare Decisions Day, observed for a week this year from April 16-22, raises awareness among people and healthcare professionals about clearly identifying patients’ wishes and their advocates, who will ensure those wishes are respected.
Gerber Memorial’s Geralyn Merkey, RN, is one of..
...four healthcare professionals who facilitate and moderate advance care planning sessions that Gerber Memorial offers free to the public.
“Everyone should be thinking about the kind of life they want to live, especially as they age, and we can’t always plan for the unexpected,” Merkey said. “What doesn’t always happen are communications and conversation between a person and their advocate about decisions affecting their future medical care. Through our free advance care planning program, Gerber Memorial is encouraging people to have those conversations”
Merkey helps people identify their wishes in anticipation of moments when they can’t communicate their healthcare wishes themselves. Through 90-minute conversations as part of the planning sessions, Merkey and the client discuss the scope of care and treatment that should be honored and executed by that person’s advocate, who could be anyone from a spouse to a relative to a friend – anyone who the client believes is most likely to uphold their wishes. Those wishes range from whether to provide CPR to do-not resuscitate orders.
“Whoever that person is, you have to be able to trust and know they’ll follow your wishes,” Merkey said. “If it’s a close relative, it may be hard because they may not want to withhold treatment. They may want the person to stay around longer but that could affect the patient’s quality of life.”
Merkey said some people can identify their wishes and find a resolution in one conversation. Others may take more. She said advance directives are important, even when a person has a will.
“This conversation can provide peace of mind to a person and their loved ones because they’ll know what the best decision for the patient is,” Merkey said. “There can be a lot of stress and strife if your family doesn’t know what your wishes are. What happens is one side of the family might say, ‘No, mom doesn’t want CPR,’ and another side will say she,’ Yes, she did.’ And what we’ve found is that most people aren’t concerned about being kept alive. They’re more concerned about being able to die with dignity.”
Once the conversation is satisfactorily concluded, clients have the option of uploading the advance directive document to Great Lakes Health Connect, a secure cloud-based database that conforms to federal patient protection regulations. Once there, a healthcare facility can access the advance directive so providers know exactly what the patient's’ wishes are.
To learn more about advance care planning or to make an appointment, call 231.924.3073. People will then attend sessions with their advocate.