In an article “Making Their Wishes Known,” RNs tell of making the effort to educate minorities about the importance of planning for end of life care in advance. Less than a quarter of the general population has completed advance directives, and Americans of color are even less likely to have expressed their wishes in writing
Examples of directive documents:
A health care power of attorney (aka a health care proxy) which identifies the person whom patients select to make medical decisions for them if they cannot speak for themselves.
A living will, which spells out patients’ preferences for end of life medical treatment, such as the right to refuse life prolonging care.
Some of the benefits of having advance directives is to help avoid the worst case scenario from happening. Family members are left to make the difficult decisions and not knowing for certain what their loved one would have wanted.
Part of the planning is having the knowledge of what is available out there. In focus group with Latinos, the NHPCO found that most participants were unfamiliar with the ideas of advance health care planning. Linguistic misunderstanding about certain terms such as “caregiver,” having a professional role rather than it being a family member's role. Hospice and nursing homes cannot be disguised, and have negative connotations because they go against the traditional cultural belief that it is the family’s responsibility to care for their sick and elderly relatives.
Simplifying advance directives
In June 2008, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recommended that oral advance directives, based on patients’ discussions with doctors, be made legally binding in all states. Health care professionals and policymakers to facilitate opportunities for discussion about advance care planning in minority communities. Once the discussion is started about planning, patients are more likely to take the next step and complete a written advance directive. Emphasis should be on getting people to think and talk about end of life planning.