Use Thanksgiving to talk more than just turkey this year

By Maureen Talarico
Thanksgiving is more than just turkey and pumpkin pie. It’s a time for many people to get together with their dearest family and friends. Essentia Health reminds you that this is also a perfect time to discuss advance care planning, the kind of care you would want if you became seriously ill or injured or unable to speak for yourself.

When life-limiting or end-of-life decisions must be made and patients cannot speak for themselves, the burden falls on family members. They often don’t know what to do, and despair and struggle through the process. “In these situations, families can be torn apart, and that’s an avoidable tragedy,” says Dr. Jonathan Sande, an oncologist/hematologist at the Essentia Health Cancer Center in Duluth and the director of Advance Care Planning.

Advance care planning is not simply filling out an advance care directive, Dr. Sande says. “It involves talking to patients and their chosen decision-makers, and making sure their goals, values and beliefs become known through a very rich discussion. We then need to ensure these discussions are accurately recorded in the medical record, and that these wishes are followed.”

Entering directive plans into your medical record is now easier than ever. Essentia Health patients can complete directives directly in their MyHealth account. MyHealth is Essentia’s secure, online service that allows you to connect with your care team. Sign up at www.EssentiaMyHealth.org

To get started, think about your goals and values related to health care and your quality of life. Talk with your family, friends and others who may be involved in your life and health care decisions in the future. Select an agent — someone who can make decisions for you when you cannot. Write down your wishes, choices and preferences in a health care directive. You can easily complete this online through MyHealth.

“The new MyHealth advance directive page is an important step forward,” Dr. Sande says. “Patients can review their documents at any time, and there are hyperlinks available to important resources. This will make it easier for all of us to foster these important conversations.”

It’s important to point out that once an advance directive is completed, through MyHealth or by paper, the document will need to be notarized OR signed by two witnesses, then mailed, faxed, or emailed to Essentia Health to be incorporated into the medical record.

If you’d like more information on Essentia’s Advance Care Planning, call (218) 786-5975 with questions, or to set up an appointment with a facilitator trained to help you and loved ones begin these conversations and complete an advance directive. Honoring Choices, a public health initiative focused on advance care planning, also has some great ideas to start the conversation with family and friends, along with some videos to help guide discussions: http://www.honoringchoices.org/events/thanksgiving

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