Advance care planning education: a free community project

The fundamental aspects of the way we die has changed with our medical and technological advances. Before the advancement of medicine, people died at home with their loved ones as caregivers. Today, while most people wish to die at home, the majority of people now die in hospitals and extended care facilities after prolonged illnesses. Patients and families now often face health crises, and during these there are times when patients are unable to speak for themselves. Research has shown that advance care planning increases compliance with patient wishes, resolves family and patient distress, and provides a guideline for medical staff to determine appropriate treatment modalities and to respect patient’s wishes. Social workers are often trying to mediate the differences between what a family wants and what a patient wants. When advance care planning has not been completed the social workers advocate for patients. In order to increase completion rates and decrease difficult situations facing social workers during crises an advance care planning class was created at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in San Joaquin County. This class was hosted by a social worker and a palliative care team which included two RNs and one physician. The overall response was overwhelmingly positive and the main recommendations were to advertise the class more, to offer it at extended care facilities in the area and to offer it year round. Videos to assist the material were shown during these classes and were determined to be exceedingly helpful despite the difficult material.