Decide, Discuss and Document: Advance Care Planning

Posted on 09/29/20 by Aimee Knight

We plan all the time. For birthdays. For education. For weddings. But an often-overlooked plan that may be difficult to talk about is determining how we want to experience the end of our lives.

Garrick Colwell, a certified grief recovery specialist, helped establish Kitchen Table Conversations in 2017 to empower people to have these tricky end-of-life conversations. Co-created with 20 Austin-area health care advocates, this all-volunteer nonprofit provides educational resources for advance care planning.

“We wanted to provide a place that was safe for people to have awkward, difficult and challenging conversations about end of life, about death and about grieving,” Colwell said. “To create a special space where people can explore these topics without feeling that they’ll be judged.”

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Once you become a legal adult at age 18, Colwell said, you can begin to create your advance directives, documents that communicate your end-of-life wishes. These include a living will (called a “directive to physicians and families” in Texas) and medical power of attorney,  in which one can identify someone to speak for them in case they are unable to do so themselves.

There are three D’s to advance care planning, Colwell said. 

The first is decide. Decide what’s most important to you, what you value most in life, and then decide who will speak for you if you become unable to speak for yourself.

The second is discuss. This is a new conversation for most people, Colwell said. So,  it’s important we learn how to communicate effectively to our loved ones and medical professionals.

The third is document.  Documents become the roadmap your loved ones and health care professionals can use to make sure your overall care is in alignment with what your end of life wishes are, Colwell said.

AARP Texas recently worked with Colwell in hosting a virtual webinar series that walked participants through the process of advanced care planning.

“The idea is we’re going to engage in a conversation,” Colwell said.

Among other things, the classes covered how to choose a power of attorney and adding a COVID-19 addendum to ones living will.

-- By Aimee Knight

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