The scenario generally plays out the same. A person becomes ill…too ill to make decisions for themselves…too ill to communicate with the attending medical staff. Nearby family rush to the hospital bedside. The physician explains what’s happening to the family. Things aren’t looking good or the medical terminology is not easy to understand. After some time, the family is left to make decisions for their seriously ill loved one. Decisions that have not been discussed or thought about prior to this point. What do we do? Who has the final say? Things normally go downhill from here. You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. Medical staff dread it. No one wins. Making healthcare decision at the hospital bedside is not the right time. These conversations need to happen before the crisis, not during.
As a mom, sister, daughter, past and future caregiver, I understand the importance of having conversations about my future healthcare decisions with my family and friends. These conversations can be hard to begin. However, there are many resources, tools and games that help families have these talks in creative ways. Over the years, I have facilitated several talks on how to plan and communicate your future healthcare decisions. One of my personal favorite resources is the Speak Up video. This video is one of the tools I consistently use when explaining why it’s so important to have the conversation and complete an advance directive. I encourage you to post and share this video with your family and friends on Facebook. They’ll thank you later. The message is short and simple`.
As we advocate for more families to participate in advance care planning, keep it simple. I remind my family and friends that advance care planning is much more than completing a form. It really is more about the conversations you have before and after any document is completed.
Lead By Example
April 16 is National Health Care Decisions Day (NHDD) and this year’s theme is, “It always seems too early, until it’s too late.” NHDD is a call to action for EVERYONE to:
→Think about your beliefs and values,
→Write them down,
→Choose a healthcare proxy (someone who speaks for you if you are not able),
→Complete an advance directive, and
→Share with your healthcare proxy, family and doctors.
The purpose of NHDD is to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning – and most importantly, to encourage people to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and health care organizations to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. As someone in the health care field, be sure to complete your advance directive and encourage your colleagues and loved ones to do the same. Practice what you preach.
For more information and resources on advance care planning, visit the National Coalition for Hospice and Palliative Care member organizations websites.
Learn more about the National Coalition for Hospice and Palliative Care.