Planning a vacation is fun.
Planning a wedding is exciting.
Planning a meeting is important.
Planning for your future healthcare is critical.
Now that your income taxes are behind you,
National Healthcare Decisions Day
is a reminder to revisit your Advance Healthcare Directive or finally fill one out to assure that your wishes for end of life care are carried out when needed. This is not just for seniors or people with a terminal illness, anyone over 18 needs to have an Advance Healthcare Directive in place.
On this day a coalition of more than 100 national organizations mobilizes to talk to as many Americans as possible about getting their future healthcare wishes written down, and expressing those wishes to their loved ones and healthcare providers. That means making sure you have an advance directive, which includes a living will, describing treatment you want and don’t want, and a durable power of attorney designating the person who will speak for you until you are unable to do so for yourself.
As much as we would like to hope all will go according to plan, the circumstances of our death may be completely out of our control. An unexpected rupture, a tragic accident, a sudden heart attack, a chunk of food gets stuck in our windpipe. We are suddenly at the mercy of other people, often strangers, making life or death decisions about us. If you have talked to your doctor, and filled out and registered a POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment), it will help avoid unwanted invasive, often futile, life-saving procedures in an ambulance or emergency room.
If you haven’t shared your wishes about resuscitation, hydration, blood transfusions, antibiotics, pacemakers, stents, amputations, being kept alive on a ventilator, your family members are going to be asked to make those decisions without knowing what you really want. If you wake up, you may not like their choices. If talking about death makes you uncomfortable, search out a Death Cafe. Have tea or a pot luck dinner, and conversation about death and dying.
Whether you want everything done or nothing done or what your limits are, if you don’t designate a healthcare representative and discuss your wishes, and fill out an advance directive ahead of any life-threatening event, you have no control over what will be done to your body while you are unconscious or what your family will be going through trying to make decisions about what you would have wanted or not wanted.
Medical personnel are well-intentioned, but well-trained to do certain medical protocols by rote. They’re not going to stop to ask whether you want to be resuscitated or kept on a ventilator for an indeterminate amount of time. If your family doesn’t know to speak up on your behalf and make your wishes known, you become a medical procedure.
Studies have shown that families who face these tragedies after having had “The Conversation” with their loved one are less traumatized after losing their loved one than those who never had any discussions about what their loved one wanted in a life or death situation.
For your sake and for your family’s peace of mind, make this April 16th the day you sit down with your family and talk about future healthcare decisions for all members.