Today is National Health Care Decisions Day. This is an annual reminder to consider your health care wishes in the event of a medical emergency. While you may have already considered and deliberated about what kind of health care decisions you would like made, most of us have not taken steps to ensure that our health care wishes will be honored, particularly if we lose the ability to be our own advocates.
So, how should you go about the process of getting your medical affairs in order? First, open the dialogue. Pick a person who you trust to be your patient advocate. Discuss with them your wishes in the event of a medical emergency and then complete a simple, two page health care proxy form to seal the deal. Make sure to discuss your wishes for care and the kinds of treatment you would want in various medical situations with other loved ones. These conversations will help you think about your living will options and prevent conflicts between family members – or confusion – should anything ever happen.
Complete your living will, appoint a health care surrogate, get your financial affairs organized, and even share some ideas about your perfect funeral. If you need some help, the National Healthcare Decisions Day website provides a variety of planning resources including:
- The American Bar Association Advance Care Planning Toolkit will help you communicate your advanced care wishes. Completing the exercises will help you prepare before you create a formal advance directive.
- Aging With Dignity “Five Wishes” advance directive walks you through the practical and touchy feely parts of advance care planning.
- Caring Connections has specific advance directives for each state downloadable for free. Their website is full of great information for advance care planning.
- Compassion & Choices provides advance directives for each state and has a toll free line to call counselors who answer questions and provide additional assistance.
- Feeling overwhelmed? Engage with Grace has one slide with five basic questions to get you started. Familiarity brings comfort, and starting the conversation is the hardest part in completing the important task of advance care planning.
Do your loved ones a favor. Decide how your life should be managed when illness occurs and especially when you are no longer able to speak for yourself.
Have more questions? Schedule an appointment with your family doctor to discuss your care options and what kinds of factors you should take into consideration.