Honoring Choices offers health care decision assistance

Honoring Choices offers health care decision assistance

One of the kindest, most caring things family members can do for their loved ones is to document their wishes concerning care and treatment during a time of incapacity. The Honoring Choices® Indiana – North Central initiative provides a forum to discuss health care choices and create an advance directive to provide everyone a clear understanding of such requests. 

Housed at the Hospice Foundation, an affiliate of Center for Hospice Care, the program was established to help enable Northern Indiana residents receive care that honors their personal goals and values during critical health situations and/or at the end of life, according to Cyndy Searfoss, director of education & collaborative partnerships at the foundation.

Honoring Choices is an advance care planning model, adopted by the State of Indiana, to assist adults in the process of having conversations about what their health care wishes would be if they weren’t able to speak for themselves, and provide ways of documenting those choices. The initiative began as a grassroots effort with leaders from health care providers, faith-based communities and non-profit organizations meeting to discuss the best approach to facilitating advance care planning in Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph counties.

“Our mission is to proactively engage the people of our community in conversations with loved ones and medical caregivers about their goals for quality of life and advance care planning,” Searfoss said. “Our Honoring Choices program is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting and sustaining advance care planning to ensure that individuals’ future health care preferences are discussed, documented, and honored. We do not charge for our services, but rely on community support, such as donations and grants, for our funding.”

Having conversations about serious health care issues can be tough. But the alternative can be even tougher and relying on loved ones to make decisions about care when someone is unable to speak for themselves can add stress to an already stressful situation.

Through Honoring Choices, certified facilitators can assist individuals, their family members and their loved ones engage in people-centered conversations that result in informed health care decisions. The decisions can be documented in an advance directive that will guide care in the event an individual is unable to speak for themselves. “To provide more flexibility and more options for adults completing advance directives, revisions were made in 2021 to Indiana state law so that there no longer is an official form requirement,” Searfoss said. “There are a variety of ways you can document who your healthcare representative is and what your wishes would be if you couldn’t direct your care yourself. We advise that everyone let their healthcare provider know their wishes and share their advance care planning documents with them.”

“Honoring Choices Indiana–North Central provides workshops to certify facilitators to help adults have discussions with family members to develop an advance care plan, designate a health care representative, and prepare their advance directive,” Searfoss said. “Becoming certified requires completion of an online training module that takes two to four hours to complete and then attending a day-long workshop. The cost for materials is approximately $225. However, we often have scholarships available to underwrite this cost.”

Getting an advance directive completed is a great first step. But, just as people continue to reach different phases in their lives, an advance directive needs to reflect those changes as well. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is the five “D” life events to help determine the appropriate time to review an advance directive: death of a loved one; divorce; diagnosis of a life-limiting condition; decline in health, or decade birthday.

For more information about these changes and requirements or to view sample forms, click on in.gov.

To learn more about Honoring Choices Indiana–North Central or to schedule a no-cost facilitation, visit hci-nc.org.