April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. What exactly does that mean? For each person, it can be a different experience. For me, it is an eye opener to what could happen and how I should start thinking about what would be best for my family if end-of-life decisions needed to be made.
I always say it is important to plan ahead. But sometimes, there are things that we feel uncomfortable talking about and put them of for another day. It feels stressful and awkward but so important should a health crisis arise.
According to a national survey, more than 90% of the people think it’s important to talk about their loved ones’ and their own wishes for end-of-life care, but fewer than 30% of people have actually had the conversation. Many people simply haven’t gotten around to taking the necessary steps to crystallize what they want and to formalize it. Sometimes it’s because people don’t know how to start the conversation with their loved ones.
On this National Healthcare Decisions Day, it is important to take the time to plan.
A great way to start is by thinking about what is most important to you if you or your loved ones were facing a life threatening or progressive illness and then you can move on to thoughtful and open conversations with those you love.
As a wife, a mom to three and a daughter to two, I think I really need to start the conversation while everyone is well. Sometimes those conversations can be the toughest, so here are some simple steps to get the conversation started:
- Think about what is most important to you. What are your greatest fears, hopes and goals? Who would you prefer to make decisions on your behalf with your physicians if you could not? How sure are you of your choices? Do you want your chosen proxy to have leeway to change your decisions? Now you are ready to discuss these topics with your loved ones to reach a shared understanding of your desires.
- Talk with your loved ones. Honest communication can help families avoid the stress of guessing what a family member would have wanted. Be open with each other and focus on really understanding the views of those you love. You may find that you and your loved ones may see some things differently. That’s okay. Talk through it, listen and keep an open mind.
- Make it official. Once you’ve had the conversation, formalize your decisions by putting them in writing. There are several ways. An advance directive can help describe your medical wishes when you no longer can. Special medical orders can be developed with your doctor. Finally, a health care proxy identifies your health care agent—the person you trust to act on your behalf if you are unable to make decisions or communicate your wishes.
- Get help. You can find valuable resources to help you think through these issues and make decisions more manageable atwww.optumcare.com and theconversationproject.org.
The following information is from Dr. Dana Lustbader, Chair of Palliative Care at ProHealth located in Manhasset.
I know that this April 16th, I am going to make an effort to begin this conversation.
Have you discussed healthcare options like this with your loved ones?
Will you start this April 16th?