Make Your Wishes Known
Do your loved ones know your health care wishes? If you ever became too sick to make your own health care choices, who would speak for you? The information provided here is designed to help you make your wishes known in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. Although it includes information about COVID-19, the suggestions listed below can help ensure you are prepared for any serious illness or injury that affects your ability to communicate.
- Pick a health care decision maker
Choose a health care decision maker, often called a proxy or health care power of attorney, who will make medical decisions for you if you become too sick to make them for yourself.
Talk with your health care decision maker to make sure they know what matters most to you. Plan to talk with your decision maker as soon as you can. Talk on the phone or use video chat if you don't live with them.
Fill out an official form naming your health care decision maker. Give a copy of the form to your decision maker and health care team. In this time of physical distancing, you may not be able to make an official legal document. That's okay. Writing down what you want is better than nothing.
- Decide what kind of medical care you would want if you got a severe case of COVID-19
Share your health care choices with your family and health care decision maker. If you aren't sure where to start, try an online resource to help you plan or talk with others, such as www.prepareforyourcare.org or www.theconversationproject.org.
If you have an Advance Directive, such as a Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney, review it to see if you want to make changes.
Talk with your health care team too. Call your primary care provider or specialist and set up a telehealth visit to talk about this. If you can't do this, ask to talk on the phone or send them something in writing. Knowing what matters most to you helps your care team provide better care that's right for you.
- Think about what you would want to do if you became very ill with COVID-19
Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and are able to recover at home. People who are older or have chronic health problems are more likely to become very sick if they get COVID-19. Many will recover with hospital care, but even with ventilator support others will not survive. Think about what you would want if you became very sick at this time. Some things to think about:
What would be most important to you?
- Being comfortable?
- Trying all possible treatments?
- Something else?
What are you most worried about?
- Being alone?
- Being in pain?
- Being a burden?
- Something else?
Who or what is helping you through this difficult time?
- My family?
- My faith?
- My pets?
- Something else?
If you became very sick with COVID-19, which would you prefer?
- To stay home?
- To go to the hospital?
If you went to the hospital, would you accept whatever treatments were recommended even if they were uncomfortable and your chances for survival were small?
You should know
- COVID-19 is a serious illness that can affect anyone. Most people who get COVID-19 are not sick enough to need care in the hospital. Those who get a severe case are often older or have other health problems. People who are older and sicker are less likely to get better, especially if they need a ventilator (breathing machine).
- Those who survive may have lung damage and long-term weakness. Even with weeks or months of rehabilitation in a health care facility, they may not get strong enough to return home.
- People may have different feelings about what medical care they would want if they got a severe case of COVID-19. Some people may want to avoid going through difficult treatments, like a ventilator, that may have little chance of helping them recover. If so, they can choose not to receive those treatments. Instead, they can choose comfort-focused measures that may include palliative and/or hospice care.