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The Importance of Advance Care Planning

While advance care planning is useful for anyone, it’s particularly important for those looking for the best end-of-life care experience and anyone considering hospice. “Advance care planning invites consideration of if and when a patient would desire hospice,” says VNA Advance Care Planning Specialist Genevieve Introcaso, LCSW. “Although hospice can be perceived as scary, it is what I have found to be the best way to help ease the fears related to end of life.”

At VNA, we understand that this process may initially seem daunting, which is why we’ve made it as seamless as possible through our home health program. Established VNA patients can inquire about advance care planning with any of their home team clinicians. Community members may inquire about formal advance directives with their attorney and/or medical provider and additional information and resources may be found on the CDC website.

So, what exactly does advance care planning entail? At VNA, you meet with a nurse practitioner and licensed clinical social worker in your home, both who are certified in palliative and hospice care, where they will evaluate your health and educate you on available services and treatment options. This information session includes supportive literature and tools to empower informed decision making and self-advocacy after the visit. “Advance care planning is so important because it plants the first seed of thought about health care wishes. It serves to invite open conversation and consideration of what are often deemed uncomfortable topics, and, if appropriate, affords the opportunity to receive accurate education about hospice philosophy and services, to dispel myths and breakdown barriers to what is the only service that can support the needs of the dying,” says Genevieve.

Advance care planning not only provides the opportunity for choice and active participation in a patient’s plan of care, but it is a way of planning proactively rather than reactively – before a health crisis occurs. It’s also a way of saying ‘I love you’ to your family; having an advance directive in place will alleviate the burden of decision-making for them. “Advance care planning affords the greatest opportunity to have a peaceful and positive experience of navigating illness and eventual dying process,” says VNA Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse Abaco Binkley, MSN, ACHPN, APRN-C. “Having spent a decade working as a nurse practitioner in the acute care setting, I’ve seen the drastic contrast of the dying experience when advance care planning does not occur.”

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