I am Keri Winchester, I am living and leaving. For many years, I have had the privilege of being an advocate for my family and friends in medical situations. I inherited this job because I have a strong back and soft front. In addition to that, I possess the ability to translate medical language into plain-speak to foster meaningful conversation, collaboration and understanding.

For the bulk of my 30+ year career, I have been working with adults in the inpatient setting of acute care hospitals as a speech pathologist. For the last 10 years specifically, I have been between the inpatient units and outpatient clinic specializing in head and neck cancer. Working in the hospital and medical system I have seen changes and not all for the better. Technology, procedures, and medication have expanded the ability to extend life. However, I don’t think that we are always asking “just because we can, should we?” Dr. Scott Halpern states, “By default, life sustaining care will be provided to every American.  We want to provide appropriate life sustaining therapies when they might work.  By the same token, when we work in a sphere with patients who have serious, chronic illnesses that are more likely than not going to be the cause of their death in the near term, we need to take opportunities to address that embedded default head on; to not do so is to abandon our responsibility to try to provide goal concordant care.”

I chose to step outside of the system to support these opportunities for clients to talk about what their goals are for their care and life. This led me to my end-of-life doula training and life planning specialization. With this training, I have been able to bring my skills to people beyond my friends and family. On this journey, I use many tools to help me help my friends, families, and clients. One of those tools is Thanacare. I use Thanacare to help document and manage the conversations I am having with people about their care wishes and what is important to them in life. Thanacare is easy to use to complete advanced care planning and get everyone aligned on the same page. I am easily able to certify and distribute back to them to share with their providers and those in their lives who may need it one day. Sometimes it’s just about getting the medical power of attorney done, other times it is the whole advance care plan. Whatever my client’s needs are, Thanacare helps me meet them where they are at.

I often hear people talk about a medical power of attorney, living wills and advanced directives as planning for death. I believe it is more about life. If something happens to you and you CANNOT speak for yourself, who knows you?  Who would understand what your wishes are for living? Do they know what is most important to you? What makes life worth living? If you don’t choose your own medical power of attorney, are you okay with the default choices as per your state law? Would that person support your wishes?

Statistics tell us that only 11% of the population experience a sudden death. But we don’t need statistics to tell us that 100% of us will die. Planning does not cause death any more than talking about sex makes one pregnant. Having a guide for the person who is speaking for you is a gift. It allows them to work with the doctors and care team to help guide decision making with your specific goals in mind. If you wouldn’t leave home for a new destination without a map or GPS, then why would you continue to live life without a map for your wishes? Advanced care planning allows for living life knowing you have someone who has a strong back and soft front in your corner when you need it.