Have you made your wishes known?
In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
We’re reminded of Ben Franklin’s old adage this time of year because April 15 is the deadline to file your IRS returns and April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day to raise awareness about advance care planning.
Do your loved ones know your wishes and values around end-of-life care? How important is it to you to avoid pain and suffering? Do you have religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs that you want others to consider? Would you, like most Americans, prefer to die at home?
National Healthcare Decisions Day is not just about end-of-life care, it’s about controlling your health care now, says Nathan Kottkamp, attorney, medical ethicist, and founder of National Healthcare Decisions Day.
No one can predict when a serious illness or accident might occur. It’s never too early to start discussing and documenting our health care directives, including appointing health care agents. We should review these decisions every five years, or more frequently as circumstances change.
It is tempting to think that end of life conversations are more suited for the aging, but many of the recent national stories about health care decision making involves young adults, including Bobbi Kristina Brown. Whether young, old or middle-aged, lack of clearly documented health care decisions and appointed decision makers to act on our behalf when we cannot, often results in legal battles, increased financial costs, prolonged pain and suffering, and dissatisfaction.
Clearly documenting your health care wishes allows you to retain control, align your goals of care with your values, and decreases the likelihood of becoming a burden to your family and friends. The conversation and completed health care power of attorney and living will documents are precious, priceless gifts that you can give yourself and your loved ones.
Have you had this difficult conversation with your parents, adult children, or close friends? If not now, when?
About the Author
This article is co-authored by Anna Lee Hisey Pierson and Kathy Gingrich, chaplains at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.