Community members encouraged to consider end-of-life planning
The resident physicians at Tidelands Health are on a mission.
Over the past year, resident physicians training at the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency Program have been encouraging patients and members of the community to consider end-of-life planning. The work is part of an annual advocacy project incorporated into the health system's family medicine residency curriculum.
This year, the health system’s eight family medicine resident physicians focused on end-of-life planning to encourage discussion of the sensitive topic. The resident physicians engaged patients on the issue and recently brought their message to the broader community through visits to a local nursing home and two libraries in Horry and Georgetown counties.
At each stop, the team discussed why it’s important for people to specify their wishes in case of a critical injury or illness.
For example, it’s important that people designate who would make care decisions if something were to happen, said Dr. Anthony Germinario, co-chief resident physician. People should also discuss their wishes for the use of life support, among other topics.
“We encourage people to discuss it with loved ones and get it down on paper,” he said. “Take the time to develop a formal advance directive, such as a health care power of attorney or living will, that directs decisions about your care if you are unable to make decisions on your own.”
To create a legally binding document, adults can follow the step-by-step outline in “Five Wishes,” a guide from the national non-profit Aging with Dignity, he said.
Studies have shown that only about one-third of adults have an advance care directive in place.
Although bringing up the conversation with a loved one can be difficult, Dr. Germinario said it’s essential. To spur conversation at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road, where the resident physicians care for patients under the guidance of senior physicians, a question about advanced directives has been added to patient check-in paperwork.
At home, one way to start the conversation is by expressing how much you care about a loved one and why you are interested in knowing his or her wishes, Dr. Germinario said.
“We encourage people not to wait until something happens,” he said. “End-of-life planning is something all adults should consider when they are healthy and well.”
The Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency program launched in 2017 as part of a broader initiative within Tidelands Health to respond to the region’s rapid population growth. The goal of the program is to help attract new physicians to the area since physicians often remain in the community where they complete their residency.