Advanced Care Planning During COVID-19 ~ An Important Conversation to Have

If not now, when?


The coronavirus (COVID-19) puts everyone at risk, but especially our older adults 65 years or older and anyone with a pre-existing health condition and/or compromised immune system.


If you or a loved one has not yet had a conversion about health care choices during a potential serious illness, now it the time to do it. One of our partners, Coalition for Compassionate Care is starting a communications campaign to encourage people to think about and put in writing what medical care they want in case of an emergency.  This is important to do before needing medical treatment.  And the COVID-19 pandemic has created an urgency for all of us to engage in these important conversations.


Below are a few reminders from CCC’s recent article: The Vital Importance of Advanced Care Planning During COVID-19

Things to Do Now:

  • Engage seniors and medically fragile patients and their families in conversations about medical treatments during serious illness.
  • Encourage patients or their surrogates to express their wishes and complete appropriate documents. Individuals who are relatively healthy should be encouraged to complete an advance directive.  Individuals who are chronically or seriously ill should be encouraged to complete a POLST (Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment).  
  • If advance care planning documents are already in place, conduct a review to be sure that the information is still valid and up-to-date. 

We can support our patients, their families and the health care system as a whole by encouraging all patients to talk about advance care planning in light of COVID-19.  Talk with patients about:

  • Potential serious complications from COVID-19 and how the patient’s age and/or health issues might be a risk factorThe treatment options most commonly employed for those who become seriously ill from COVID-19
  • How the patient’s current age and underlying health condition might impact the potential success rate of treatment options like ventilator support
  • The individual’s personal  values, goals and wishes regarding medical care if they were to become seriously ill from COVID-19
  • Whom the patient trusts to make medical decisions for them if they can’t speak
  • The options for keeping the patient comfortable if they decide they do not want to be transported to the hospital or treated with a ventilator
  • The availability of palliative care services and hospice to help ensure comfort and dignity will be a primary goal of treatment


Read the full article for more details on Advanced Health Care Directives vs. POLST and more resources.

Karen Joy Fletcher

Our blogger Karen Joy Fletcher is CHA’s Communications Director. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she is the online “public face” of the organization, provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare and other health care issues. She is responsible for digital content creation, management of CHA’s editorial calendar, and managing all aspects of CHA’s social media presence. She loves being a “communicator” and enjoys networking and collaborating with the passionate people and agencies in the health advocacy field. See her current articles.