Making Medical Decisions

As you get older and your medical issues become more complex, there are several health care decisions that you will need to make. These decisions include day-to-day priorities for maintaining your quality of life, the ongoing health care goals you want to achieve and how you want end-of-life care to be handled. It’s important to discuss and  document these decisions with your caregivers and health care professionals . At Banner Health, our caring staff is here to provide you with helpful information that will enable you to make informed decisions.

Goals and Preferences: A Conversation With Caregivers

We realize these conversations may be very difficult to have with your caregivers, but it’s crucial you talk with them to ensure the appropriate health care is aligned with your priorities. The following steps will help guide you in these conversations:

Step 1: Think about and discuss what matters most to you in your life and health. To help you identify what is most important, we’ve listed the four components of life:

  • Connecting with people: your family, friends, community, spirituality or religion
  • Managing health: managing your pain and fatigue, feeling good
  • Enjoying life: recreation, hobbies, personal growth, learning, being productive
  • Functioning: taking care of yourself, being independent and not depending on others

Step 2: Set meaningful health goals and determine if your current health care aligns with those goals. Take some time to think about your answer to the question, “Is there anything you hope to achieve through your health care?”

Meaningful health care goals are:

  • Values that matter to you
  • Realistic and something you are able to do
  • Specific
  • Flexible and can be changed as needed

Step 3: Decide what you are willing to do to meet your goals. For example, are you willing to add more medication to be more active? Can you schedule more doctors appointments to achieve your desired health? Will you modify your eating habits or cut tobacco out? This step is especially important as you will need to talk about how your current health care helps and hinders you.

Communicate Your Goals and Preferences with Health Care Providers

After you have identified your goals and health care preferences, you should work with your health care team to communicate this information and let them know how they can help you reach your goals. We’re focused on helping you make the decisions that are right for you during your health care journey.

Here are some tips as you work together with your health care team to ensure your health care priorities and concerns are addressed:

  1. Talk openly. Discuss your goals and health care preferences. Explain what you are able to do, what you feel is helping, as well as what is not helping and is bothersome. Determine what you need from your doctors to meet your goals.
  2. Ask questions. When discussing options, ensure you ask how the recommended treatments could affect your overall health and health care goals.
  3. Be specific. Instead of making general statements, try to give more context so your doctor can provide you with the best care. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t like this medication,” be more specific and say, “This medication makes me dizzy and weak.”

Advance Directives

As you continue on your health care journey, it’s important to make advance care plans now before encountering a serious illness or disease, providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones alike.

Advance care planning is the process of making decisions about your health care preferences and medical treatments. This information is entered into an advance directive, a living legal document that can help health care providers and family members or caregivers understand your values and wishes in medical situations and end-of-life care when you are no longer able to make your own decisions regarding medical treatment. These types of decisions may include:

  • CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  • Use of a ventilator
  • Artificial nutrition
  • Palliative care
  • Hospice care

You will also designate a health care power of attorney, a mental health care power of attorney and complete a living will. Once your advance directive is complete, you should let both your family/caregiver and health care providers know about your preferences.

Find more important information about advance care directives

Legal & Financial Planning for Dementia Patients

If you have recently been diagnosed with a serious illness, especially one  that is expected to cause a decline in mental and/or physical state, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, we recommend that you review and update your financial and advance care planning as soon as possible.

Advance care planning laws vary by state and life’s changes, such as divorce, relocation or death in the family, can further complicate your plans for care. An elder law attorney can help you and your loved ones understand the state laws and financial options, help prepare and maintain important documents and offer guidance to ensure your wishes are carried out. Find advance directive forms by state.

For Medicare Patients

Medicare covers certain advance care planning as part of your annual wellness visit and may also cover this as part of your medical treatment. Learn more from Medicare.gov

For Caregivers: Making Decisions On Behalf of Your Senior

We’re here to help. We have included helpful information and resources about making decisions on behalf of seniors. Learn more about the tools and resources we have available for caregivers