April 16th this year is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), which is a day to think about and prepare or update your advanced directives for healthcare. It’s a great gift to your family and friends to let them know your wishes in case of health crises in which you may not be able to speak for yourself. It’s comforting to you to know that you’ve discussed the circumstances and interventions that would fit with your values and desires for your future. It reduces family discord to have a designated patient advocate who has a written document with your decisions about treatment. It’s also hard to think about and talk about such frightening eventualities.
There is a website about NHDD that helps make it easier to undertake those conversations and to execute the relevant documents. It lists a number of websites in which to find state-specific advanced directives forms. It also has links to many sites that help facilitate family conversations about health crises and each person’s wishes, including some card games and a phone app to store advanced directives for yourself and loved ones.
The American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging also has a number of helpful resources on preparing advanced directives and serving as a patient advocate. There’s a guide to completing a universal health care power of attorney form, a guide to making medical decisions for another, and a toolkit that invites you to think about the various factors involved in coming to a decision about your possible care if you were faced with a serious medical condition.
Try not to put it off again this year. My colleagues in the senior ER are begging us all to help them to help us and our families go through such harrowing experiences in a way that honors the person at risk and helps us all have greater peace of mind.
Sue Sweeney, Chair, Department of Aging Studies, Madonna University