Veterans can make an end of life care plan while healthy

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Photo credit Photo courtesy Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans have a way to tell their loved ones about their end of life care wishes in advance of any medical crisis.

Life-Sustaining Treatment Orders empower older veterans to communicate their final care wishes at the end of their life.

“It is important to have these conversations during non-crisis times when patients have decision-making capacity,” said VA Geriatric Scholar Elkee Baker in a blog post.

Navy veteran Don Begg, 90, completed an order with the participation of.his wife, Beatrice.

“We did it together,” she said. “We talked about it. He was adamant about no resuscitation. He’s lived a good, long life and doesn’t want to be kept alive by artificial means.”

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Photo credit Photo courtesy Department of Veterans Affairs

Baker said initiating goals of care conversations with patients, caregivers and family provides the basis for shared decisions about treatment planning.

“It’s informative. It puts you in a good mood. You can understand what’s wrong with you,” shared Begg, a Korean War veteran.

Begg’s daughter, Molly Houssian, said knowing her father’s preferences gives her family peace of mind.

“He’s very aware of his situation and feels good about the life he’s led,” Houssian said. “It’s been a good experience for him. He’s been able to make decisions instead of his family scrambling to figure out what he wants as opposed to what he doesn’t want. It gives us peace of mind knowing he’s made that decision for himself.”

Baker said the reactions of both veterans and caregivers to the order have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Many discussions turn into meaningful and loving conversations. I heard statements such as, ‘I’m so glad we discussed this, Dad. I never knew you didn’t want that.’ And ‘I’m so glad you talked about this with my dad before he became so ill, because now I know what he wants me to do., she said

COVID-19 has heightened the need for conversations about end-of-life treatment plans

“It has never been more important to have goals-of-care conversations with our patients during this pandemic,” Baker continued. “We need to talk about potential complications from COVID due to advanced age and underlying health conditions and how this might cut the potential success rate of treatment options like ventilator support, for example.”

To learn more about the orders, visit here.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com

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