Advance Care Planning

Clint Sowards, DO, of the SLV Health Family Practice

Now, during this time of “social distancing,” it is more important than ever for families to have conversations with their health-care providers and family members about their wishes for end-of-life care.

“Oftentimes, the ‘end of life wishes’ talk comes way too late,” said Clint Sowards, DO, of the SLVH Primary Clinic. “In my short career as a family doctor, I have had to ask bewildered loved ones what they think their father or mother would want us to do too many times.”

April 16, nationally recognized as National Healthcare Decisions Day, was created years ago to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. The day was created as an initiative to encourage people to express their wishes about their end-of-life care, and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be.

Health-care providers in the San Luis Valley – including San Luis Valley Health – urge everyone to take steps to identify who will speak for you if you are not able to do so.

“We should have our end-of-life wishes written down, so that if the time ever comes we call rest assured that we have followed the desired plan,” explained Dr. Sowards. “It feels unnecessary and difficult to talk about, but it makes difficult decisions that much easier.”

Consider having the “conversation” with your loved ones so that they are better able to help assure your wishes. Write those wishes down using an advance care planning form, such as the Five Wishes, and be sure to share those written wishes with your health-care provider.

Resources for planning end-of-life healthcare decisions can be found at:

  • The Conversation Project Starter Kits at https://theconversationproject.org/starter-kits/
  • Five Wishes at https://fivewishes.org/five-wishes/individuals-families/individuals-and-families
  • Colorado Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment at https://coloradocareplanning.org/colorado-most-program/
  • Atul Gawande is an American surgeon, public health researcher and author of “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters at the End.” The book discusses end-of-life choices about assisted living and the effect of medical procedures on terminally ill people, challenging many traditionally held notions about the role of medicine. The book was the basis of a documentary for the PBS television series Frontline.
  • Hospice del Valle has informative paperwork at its office in Alamosa. “We can sit down with someone who is wondering about it,” said Susan Foster, quality consultant for Hospice del Valle. “We can take the time to answer all the questions and explain it in more detail.”

“Everyone, of any age, should have forms available for review,” said Dr. Sowards. “An ounce of preparation is worth a ton in a time of need.”

For more information, please contact your primary care provider directly or contact a nurse or social worker at Hospice del Valle at 719-589-9019.