Please join us on Wednesday, April 19, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for a screening of “Being Mortal,” followed by a panel discussion about advance care planning. The session will also include opportunity to discuss process and tools for medical decision making. To learn more and register, click here.
Did you know that in Vermont it is not automatically your next of kin who makes medical decisions for you if you become unable to speak for yourself? Have you heard the term ‘advance care planning’ but thought it was only for an older population?
“Who’s Your Person… What’s Your Plan?” is a collective impact initiative of nine local organizations working to educate the community about a stepwise approach to advance care planning, in particular the importance of choosing someone to speak on your behalf if you are too sick or injured to communicate for yourself. Injury or illness can happen to anyone at any time, so it’s important that everyone age 18 or older take the first step in the process and appoint a health care agent.
Let’s start with a few definitions:
- Advance care planning is a process to help you, in advance of injury, serious illness, or catastrophic event think about and plan for future medical decisions should you become unable to speak for yourself. It allows you to communicate in advance about what matters most, and the kind of treatment you would or would not want if you were injured, seriously ill or dying.
- A health care agent is someone you choose to make medical decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself. It can be your spouse, parent, sibling, friend, neighbor, or anyone else you trust.
This project began in 2016 as a way to normalize the concept of planning for our future health care needs and supporting proactive conversations about health goals and priorities. In 2016, 1,590 advance directives were registered with the Vermont Advance Directive Registry from Chittenden and Grand Isle County residents. This is a 160 percent increase in the rate of registration since 2008. Additionally, the University of Vermont Medical Center General Internal Medicine department saw an advance care plan completion increase of 9 percent in 2016 (6 percent more than the goal).
The most encouraging aspect of this data is that it represents more Vermonters taking action to communicate their medical preferences in advance. Studies show that this leads to:
- Less emotional distress for patients, families and providers
- Less conflict between healthcare professionals
- Less use of significant healthcare resources due to prolonged decision-making and therefore lower health care spending
- Less moral uncertainty about choices that are made
- Increase in quality, patient-centered care
As part of our community outreach, we are partnering with local businesses to offer trainings to their employees. To date, we have trained approximately 200 employees and community members. Support for advance care planning opportunities in the workplace:
- Helps employees prepare for sudden or progressive illness
- Improves quality of care employees receive
- Demonstrates business commitment to employee wellness
- Reduces costs
- By empowering employees to plan for and direct their future care, research shows that individuals often choose a less expensive. This results in lower healthcare costs for the community and for employers.
If you are interested in scheduling an advance care planning presentation for your employees, board members, volunteers, or community group, or have questions about how to appoint a health care agent or document your preferences—visit us at www.takingstepsvt.org or email us directly!
Our collective impact partners are Age Well, Bayada Hospice, Cathedral Square/SASH, Chittenden County Regional Clinical Performance Committee, Howard Center, OneCare Vermont, The University of Vermont Medical Center, Vermont Ethics Network, and VNA of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties. Our thanks to the University of Vermont Medical Center Community Health Investment Committee for generously funding this project.
The Community Health Investment Fund at the UVM Medical Center supports a wide range of community programs and initiatives that improve the health of our community. The fund is overseen by the Community Health Investment Committee, which is made up of both community members and hospital staff. We invest $800,000 annually in efforts that further the priority areas identified in the UVM Medical Center’s Community Health Needs Assessment. To date, we have supported 23 programs at 19 organizations across our service area in our current fiscal year. The 2017-2019 priority areas are: Access to Healthy Food, Chronic Conditions, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Supportive Housing.