College education. Career path. Relationships. Starting a family. Buying or selling a house. Vacations. Retirement. From the age that we’re old enough to understand, most of us are taught and accept that these are the markers in life that we plan for. However, there’s one key marker that’s all-too-often missing from this list: advance care planning. Like planning for these other life events, planning for the time (or times) that we are unable to express our healthcare wishes is of the utmost importance. It is something that should be well thought-out, documented and revisited at different points in life to reflect any change in our desires or family situation or the person we wish to advocate for us.
Unfortunately, it is a planning point that that majority of us have missed. In fact, only about 25% of adults have an advance care plan. As a consequence, patients’ families suffer the added burden of having to guess when a health crisis happens. That’s why National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) was founded 10 years ago and why this nationwide advance care planning awareness initiative is as important as ever. I am joining fellow bloggers throughout the country to spread the word about the importance of advance care planning.
NHDD, which happens every April 16—and is a week-long event this year—is a collaborative effort of thousands of national, state, and community organizations as well as dedicated individual advocates committed to ensuring that adult Americans–like you and me—have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions.
It only takes a few minutes to start a conversation with your loved ones about advance care planning. It is a conversation that affects people for a lifetime.
Here are some specific things you can do:
- Lead by example. Schedule time with your loved ones to “Have the Talk” and complete your own advance directive. There are many tools, including free forms, you can use to walk you through the process and make your wishes known; access them through the NHDD Public Resources page.
- Encourage your loved ones and friends to learn more about advance directives and to complete their advance directives. You can forward this link.
- Share your advance directive with your healthcare providers. Make sure it is on file in the event it is needed.
Advance care planning is something we ALL should do and encourage others to do, regardless of age or current health. Discussing your wishes can be one of the most important gifts you ever give your loved ones.
Please use and share the resources available through the NHDD website and encourage and empower us all to make our healthcare decisions now because … It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late!