April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a nationwide initiative to educate the public and their providers about advance care planning and the importance of healthcare decision-making. Discussing end-of-life plans with loved ones can be difficult, so this day of awareness is a good reminder, perhaps encouraging both parties to broach the topic sooner rather than later.
Families who make proactive healthcare decisions often experience increased peace of mind during difficult times, sometimes finding reassurance in the ability to enact a loved one’s wishes when they cannot speak for themselves. Planning preemptively for end-of-life situations can be uncomfortable and raise unexpected emotions for everyone involved. Handled delicately and thoughtfully, however, these conversations prepare families to confidently face whatever challenges might arise.
What to Discuss
When it’s time to discuss end-of-life plans with loved ones, it’s important to understand what needs to be addressed. Sometimes known as a living will, an advance directive designates your healthcare power of attorney and outlines what medical measures you want taken if death seems imminent. To guide your conversation, The Illinois State Medical Society offers a free pamphlet outlining the decisions to be made and the forms necessary to do so. To find it, click “Advance Directive Resources” in the Section for Patients and look for the brochure entitled A Personal Decision.
How to Move Forward
Making end-of-life decisions takes time and careful thought. Approach this planning as a process, granting your loved one whatever support they need to make informed decisions. When addressing these topics with a parent or family member, it’s often helpful to share how much their efforts mean to you. However difficult to express, they will be grateful to know that you want to be equipped to guide their medical treatment according to their wishes. Depending on the situation, this might enable you to limit prolonged agony and reduce suffering for all parties involved. This Caring Conversations Workbook from The Center for Practical Bioethics provides helpful guidance and discussion topics for families who want to begin the process together.
Once you and your loved one have moved through the healthcare planning and decision-making process, the next step is to fill out all necessary forms and share them with the appropriate doctors. In addition, store the documents in a safe, accessible place and make copies for close family members.
On April 16th, CMSS will be hosting an event in honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day. We would love to see you there so we can support you in your advance care planning.
About the Author
As President and CEO of CMSS, Bill Lowe is responsible for the organization’s operations and direction, and reports to the board of directors for oversight. Bill is concurrently the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Symbria. He has worked with CMSS for over 20 years, taking his first position as the CFO in 1989. Bill holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Masters in Business Administration from Northern Illinois University, and is also a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator and a certified Retirement Housing Professional Fellow.