June 14, 2024

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The Best Gift: How Advance Care Planning Impacts Veteran Health Care Decisions | VA Bay Pines Health Care

2 min read

One of the ways Bay Pines VA cares for the whole health of Veterans, their caregivers, and survivors is through a concentrated approach toward health care decisions.

“Every Veteran’s voice is essential to their health care journey,” said Bay Pines VA Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker Linda Leveen. “As part of our team’s support, we work to provide every Veteran with the resources needed to drive their plan of care.”

Leveen and the members of the Bay Pines VA palliative care team works every day to champion the importance of advance directives. 

“In many ways, advance directives can be the best gift a Veteran can bestow on a spouse, family member, or caregiver,” continued Leveen. “When Veterans are critically ill and the time comes for tough health care decisions, loved ones feel a sense of relief knowing their Veteran has already made a choice that they would otherwise struggle with.”

Leveen mentioned that she and her team encounter two-to-three Veterans daily, more than 900 a year, who do not have a living will or advance directive. 

“We know this is a sensitive subject, and often, people don’t want to discuss it when they feel there’s no imminent need,” continued Leveen. “The reality is there may never be an easy time to make these choices, but we have the right people ready to support everyone who wants to take the first step.”

Bay Pines VA uses VA Form 10-0137 which provides options for Veterans to identify primary and alternate surrogates who can speak on their behalf, should a situation arise where the Veteran is unable to communicate, and record their preferences for treatment options. 

“Bay Pines VA social workers are the best resource to work with Veterans and their families,” added Leveen. “We encourage Veterans to bring in whomever they like, and we walk through various scenarios to be as specific as needed. Once the process is complete, the form is uploaded in the Veteran’s file for easy access by the care team.”

Leveen noted there are a few considerations Veterans and families should be mindful of if they have signed a living will or advance directive outside of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. 

“Often we learn from Veterans that the documents are at home or with a lawyer, and that is okay; however, without the document in-hand or on file, it makes it difficult to ensure those wishes are followed,” continued Leveen. “Veterans should bring a copy of that document to their care team and ensure it’s uploaded in our system.”

To make an appointment for advance care planning, Veterans or family members and caregivers of Veterans may contact Bay Pines VA Palliative Care Clinic at 727-398-6661, extension 10446. 

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