Putting yourself, family at ease with Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning (upnorthlive.com photo)

(WPBN/WGTU) -- No one is ever prepared when a tragedy happens or what's the best plan of action, especially when a loved one is nearing the end of life.

End of life is inevitable and it's something we don't like to think about, let alone plan about.

A couple is going through Advance Care Planning and calling it a gift.

"We have to accept that we're not going to be here forever and that I really believe this is a gift."

You might not want to think of advance care planning or planning ahead for end of life as a gift, but after hearing from Chuck and Linda Mueller, you might think otherwise.

"I've been dealing with my parents who've been in poor health. My dad died three years ago. So I think that might be part of it."

For the past seven to eight years, the Mueller's have been working together as a family on Advance Care Planning through Munson Medical Center.

After losing his father, Chuck realized more than ever why it's important to plan ahead for those end of life decisions.

This way when the time comes, there aren't any uncertainties or questions for you or your loved ones.

"This is my five wishes that I got filled out in 2005," said Chuck, "I filled out and had Linda sign it but didn't talk about it with her."

The five wishes goes into detail what your loved one would want should he or she be at a point where they can't speak for themselves based on their medical state.

At first, Chuck simply filled it out but now, he and Linda are opening up the communication with their kids.

"I sense with my children they don't even want to think about us at a point in time when we'll pass," said Linda. "But things happen unexpectedly and it's a good conversation to have."

Chuck and Linda are also attending Advance Care Planning workshops through Munson including what goes into it.

"I created the workshop to help people identify who would be a good spokesperson for them if they're unable to make their own medical wishes," said Munson Medical Center's Advance Care Planning Cordinator, Stephanie VanSlyke, RN. "It's not just all about end of life. It's about living now. We never know when something's going to happen."

VanSlyke is not only an advocated for Advance Care Planning but also works in Munson's intensive care unit and sees families dealing with traumatic life changing decisions on a daily basis.

"Being in these positions, we're rarely prepared, specifically in a crisis or someone who's been sick for awhile, a lot of times when you'd hope families would be pulled together they're sometimes pulled apart. I really hope to eliminate a lot of that."

Munson physicians are also hoping to be part of the push to plan ahead instead of having patients' loved one making end of life decisions on the fly.

"I think some of that falls on us as a physician to make sure they're making that a regular part of their annual visit. To say 'this is the time to introduce this conversation' and not wait for the patient to bring it up."

For the Mueller's, it's an ongoing journey, but when it's completed, it will ease their son and daughter during an already emotional time.

"It's a process and it may change after time so it doesn't mean it's written in stone..This conversation needs to happen before you're in that kind of situation. You have to be really clear with what you want and the person who you designate as your voice is willing to follow through."

Chuck and Linda plan on meeting with VanSlyke once again after they've finalized their advance care planning with their kids.