National Healthcare Decisions Day – Make Your Wishes Known

While making healthcare decisions is often difficult in the best of circumstances, making decisions for others is even more complicated. Each of us has the ability to guide our healthcare providers and our loved ones about what we want. Advance directives give you the ability to document the types of healthcare you do and do not want, and to name an “agent” to speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself. As Terri Schiavo’s situation vividly revealed, having an advance directive can be valuable for all adults, regardless of current age or health status.

Please help us make history, again.  April 16, 2014, will be the 7th annual National Healthcare Decisions Day.  The inaugural event, which was formally recognized by Congress and Advance-directive-factnumerous state and local governments, included participation by 76 of the most prominent national healthcare, religious, and legal associations and organizations.  By the second year, over 700 local and state organizations throughout the country also participated.  At every level, the goal of this nationwide initiative is to ensure that all adults with decision-making capacity in America have both the information and the opportunity to communicate and document their future healthcare decisions.  The first years’ results were impressive—over 750,000 people obtained resources to make their healthcare decisions known—but there remain millions of Americans to go.

With the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990, Congress affirmed the right of every citizen to set forth his or her future healthcare wishes in writing with an “advance directive.” Yet, various estimates suggest that only about 25% of all Americans have done so.  Because advance directives can be created without a lawyer, for free, and relatively easily, this figure is astonishingly low.  In recognition of this, National Healthcare Decisions Day strives to provide much-needed information to the public, reduce the number of tragedies that occur when a person’s wishes are unknown, and improve the ability of healthcare facilities and providers to offer informed and thoughtful guidance about advance healthcare planning to their patients.

With healthcare, “your decisions matter;” however, others need to know your wishes to honor them. There are no wrong answers when thinking about healthcare choices and completing an advance directive. Please use April 16, 2014, to decide, discuss, and document your wishes, whatever they may be.

Not sure how to start the difficult conversation about advance directives? We can help! Click here to view the Heart to Heart Conversations guide.

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The Beauty of a Plan by a Hospice Nurse

The Beauty of a Plan

It’s never too late to “make a plan” for the future. It is true that with some resolutions, we start out with big goals and usually end up with little gains. There is one area though, that planning ahead makes a world of difference in our own lives as well as the lives of those we love and care about.

Working in healthcare for over 40 years, I have seen up close and personal the effects of poor healthcare planning and the great benefits of careful attention paid to Advance Directives.  A life-imposing visit to the Emergency Room is NOT the time to think of all those things we should have taken care of while we were well. Right now is the time to make decisions tonational-healthcare-decisions-day-2014 guide our physicians, family members, and loved ones involved in our care. The beauty of Advance Directives is that YOUR wishes are made known prior to the chaos of all emergencies.

Advance Directives exist in two primary forms: 1) A Living Will and 2) A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. The forms are both available on-line and do not require an attorney to complete or a Notary Public to make them official.

A Living Will is a simple document to complete that outlines your healthcare choices at end of life and when you are no longer able to make those wishes known. It requires an open and frank discussion with your loved ones and your physician. It can clarify and express your desires when you cannot make those requests known to others. It does not come into effect until it has been determined that you are no longer capable of decision making for yourself.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you to determine a stand-in decision maker if you are unable to speak yourself. They will have the same power as you would. This is usually a spouse, child, or trusted friend who knows your wishes and will carry them out for you, should it become necessary. Again, an open and frank discussion ahead of time makes a crisis much easier to deal with.

Both forms can be changed or updated upon desire of the person completing the documents at any time. It is important that your healthcare choices are known to your family and your physician to avoid unnecessary care or treatment that you would not choose for yourself.

When my mother died, all her documents were in order and it saved my three brothers and me the heartache, disharmony, and family conflict. I have also seen where this has not been the case and families have been torn apart because of lack of planning.  So fire up the internet,make some choices, and let your voice ring out … now, while it is clear and strong.

Related reading: National Healthcare Decisions Day-Make Your Wishes Known

Minda Jacobsen, RN, MSHA, CHPN
Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations

Advance Care Planning

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Advance Care Planning
A Road Map for Your Loved Ones and Medical Team

Talking about end-of-life healthcare wishes is difficult even in the best of circumstances; however, making decisions for a loved one in an emergency is even more complicated.

End-of-life care planning is the process of making your healthcare wishes known, in the event that something should happen unexpectedly, leaving you unable to communicate your preferences and personal beliefs in healthcare. Part of the planning process includes completing advance directives, which is putting your preferences into writing.

Advance directives are written, legal instructions that are recognized and valid throughout the United States (Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney). Advance directives guide your healthcare provider and loved ones to make appropriate medical choices on your behalf. It is not necessary to have a lawyer fill out an advance directive with you. Once you complete it and have it signed by the required witness, it becomes valid. Also, advance directives do not expire, but if you complete a new one, the previous version is now unacceptable for use.

Another way of thinking about advance care planning is similar to planning a road trip. Most people would not travel to an unfamiliar place without doing some kind of pre-planning. For instance mapping your route, determining attractions and dining preferences, etc. Yet only 30 percent of Americans have a Living Will, a map that guides loved ones and your healthcare provider through the medical treatment you wish to receive if you are unable to communicate.

These open conversations can reduce anxiety about a situation we are all subject to face. If you have not completed your advance directives, now is the time to do so. To find resources on how to start this conversation visit www.goHOSPICE.com.

Kandice Dickinson
Public Relations Specialist
Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC

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