Northern Colorado Medical Society funds advance-care planning program

GREELEY — The Northern Colorado Medical Society is funding an initiative to offer information on advance-care planning to its 800-plus member physicians and their staffs in Larimer and Weld counties.

The Greeley-based medical society is providing $10,000 to the nonprofit Systems of Care Initiative Inc. in Greeley to provide a program to encourage and assist physicians and their staffs in having conversations with their patients about end-of-life wishes and advance-care directives.

Advance-care planning helps people prepare for future medical needs while they are still able to make decisions. A key part is preparing an advance-care directive, a legal document that is used when a person can’t communicate or is unwilling to speak for themselves.  

The society said people in Colorado should have a medical durable power of attorney because the state does not have a default medical decision-maker provided by law.

According to a statement by the medical society, most people assume that if they are in an accident, their spouse or parent will be their medical decision-maker, but that is not the case in Colorado, where any “interested” party is allowed input into medical decisions for an incapacitated patient. A medical power of attorney allows the patient’s designated person to to be the only one making medical decisions for that patient.  

Advance-care directives also include living wills, a CPR directive — which states wishes for care in the case of cardiopulmonary arrest —  as well as ways to age with dignity.

This initiative is intended to increase awareness of advance-care planning, encourage and facilitate a cultural change in the community such that having discussions about end-of-life decisions are normal, comfortable and a routine part of health care.

The society has set a goal of having 70 percent of people in the community who are 18 and older complete advance-care directives.

Systems of Care Initiative’s board of directors has representatives from Banner Health, UCHealth, the Health District of Northern Larimer County, Northern Colorado IPA, Family Medicine Center and Telligen.