Presentation to focus on advance care planning

By Jami Makan

An upcoming presentation will focus on advance care planning, advance directives and other topics such as palliative care.

On Thursday, March 28 at 12:45 p.m., William E. Lombard, MD will give a talk titled “The Realities of Advance Medical Interventions” at the Blaine Senior Center, 763 G Street.

Lombard, a long-time Whatcom County nephrologist and medical director of DaVita Mt. Baker Kidney Center, will present in layperson’s terms about advanced medical interventions, as well as what the outcomes could mean for patients in the short and long term.

Even though the presentation is being given at the Blaine Senior Center, experts say that adults of all ages should engage in advance care planning.

“It could be a sudden, unexpected event such as a car accident, illness or sports injury that leaves you unable to communicate,” said Hilary Walker, PeaceHealth’s program coordinator for advance care planning.

Advance care planning is a process for individuals to discuss, document and plan for any sudden or unexpected medical events that may happen. It allows individuals to identify who they authorize to make medical decisions on their behalf, and to document what kind of medical treatment they would or would not want to undergo.

Alternatively, advance care planning can be done in anticipation of the exacerbation of a chronic condition, such as dementia. “It could be planning ahead, where at one point you’re able to make decisions, but because of the decline, you may suddenly be unable to make decisions for yourself,” said Walker.

One’s wishes are generally made known on a document called an advance directive. An advance directive is a legal document that requires a notary or witness, based on the specific type of document you’re dealing with.

Failure to complete this paperwork means that a certain order of people needs to be followed for surrogate decision-making, mandated by the law. However, the person who providers have to go to legally may not always be the best person for the task.

“If I have an 18-year-old daughter and I don’t have a husband, my daughter has to make decisions for me,” said Walker. In this hypothetical situation, an advance directive could put a sibling instead of the young daughter in this stressful position.

A spouse is generally the first person who is called upon to make decisions in the absence of an advance directive. However, if there is no spouse or they are unable to act, then the next person in line is the adult child. If there is more than one, they all have to agree. Living parents come next, even if they are divorced, and if one doesn’t have any living parents, then it goes to their adult siblings. Again, if there is more than one, they all have to agree.

Once a person has filled out their paperwork, it is not enough to simply leave it somewhere safe. They should file a copy with their hospital or healthcare provider, so that it can be readily accessed if necessary, said Walker.

  1. Thank you, Jami Makan, and The Northern Light, for reporting on this important topic that effects ALL of us! Raising awareness about what our healthcare choices would be, if we could not speak for ourselves, is a public health agenda issue.

    I appreciate that you’re taking a lead to inform your readers!


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