In recognition of April 16 as National Healthcare Decisions Day, the New Jersey Department of Health is encouraging Garden State residents to discuss their healthcare preferences and plan ahead for end-of-life care decisions with their physicians and family.
“Advance care planning offers benefits for individuals and their families,” Acting Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “Individuals have the comfort of knowing that their treatment preferences will be honored and families of patients are relieved from making difficult decisions without knowing what their loved one desired.”
Individuals should consider what type of care and treatment they would prefer near the end-of-life. For example, as part of planning, they may want to review palliative care and hospice programs. Palliative care focuses on improving life and providing comfort to people of all ages with serious, chronic, and life-threatening illnesses. Hospice programs provide medical services, emotional support and spiritual resources for those with terminal illness. Hospice also offers support to family members as they face the challenge of caring for a loved one with a terminal illness.
Individuals may also want to consider specific medical interventions they would like to have when they are near the end of life. Some people would prefer to have every medical treatment taken to prolong their life, while others may not want to have their life sustained with medical support such as the use of a ventilator or feeding tube.
“The majority of New Jersey residents have not documented their preferences for end-of-life care,” Bennett said. “Planning for care is important at any age, and residents should not wait until they are faced with an illness.”
The Department’s palliative and end-of-life care website provides residents with forms, toolkits and guidance to help guide them in talking about and planning end-of-life care. The website also highlights the Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, which empowers residents to work with their healthcare provider to document preferences for medical care at the end of life. In 2011, Governor Chris Christie signed New Jersey’s Practitioners Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) law, which allows patients with a life-limiting illness, in collaboration with their health care provider, to identify goals of care and preferences for treatment.
National Healthcare Decisions Day highlights the importance of documenting healthcare preferences. Please visit www.nhdd.org for more information on National Healthcare Decisions Day.
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