In the event of an emergency, do your loved ones know how you would want to be treated? Is there a legal record of your wishes?

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day dedicated to advanced planning for difficult healthcare situations. End-of-life conversations are difficult to have, but it is better to have them now, while you are able to think them through and consider your options, than to put your family in a position where they do not know your wishes in an emergency.

The most common type of end-of-life healthcare document is an advance directive. Advance directives come in two main forms, which National Healthcare Decisions Day defines as follows:

1. A “healthcare power of attorney” (or “proxy” or “agent” or “surrogate”) documents the person you select to be your voice for your healthcare decisions if you cannot speak for yourself.

2. A “living will” documents what kinds of medical treatments you would or would not want at the end of life.

The second type of advance directive, a living will, helps you establish how much and what types of care you desire. These decisions give you a role in end-of-life decisions, as well as the healthcare power of attorney named in the first type of advance directive.

For example, do you wish to be given CPR or put on life support in the event that you stop breathing or your heart stops? You can create a living will that is very specific regarding the types of care you do and do not want, including under what circumstances you would want treatment. You can read more about what to include in a living will, and how to make one that is legally binding, in our blog post “What Is a Living Will?

Many people have questions about advance directives, and talking about this issue with loved ones can be very difficult. That’s why we’re hosting our own event in honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Letting Go: Having Conversations About the End of Life.

The presentation, which will be held on Tuesday, April 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Covenant Home of Chicago in Lincoln Square, will be given by Nancy Flowers, Community Educator for Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care and Signe Gleeson RNC, CCM, MS, Founder of ElderCare Solutions.

Flowers and Gleeson will discuss:

  • When and how to approach a conversation
  • Factors to consider in making decisions
  • How to maintain control of care decisions
  • When doing less is doing more

To RSVP, please contact Tricia Mullin, Director of Community Relations at Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services, at (773) 596-2296 or e-mail mullin@cmsschicago.org.