National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is observed every year on April 16. National Healthcare Decisions Day is dedicated to encouraging individuals to have important conversations about advance care planning. It’s a time to make your end of life wishes known.

Advance healthcare planning helps you consider your values, wishes, beliefs and concerns should you have to make important decisions about your healthcare. It also helps ensure that your loved ones and physicians understand your wishes should they need to make decisions on your behalf.

If you or a loved one is living with a serious or chronic illness then advance care planning becomes even more significant. Advance care planning when shared with your medical providers can improve quality of life, prevent unwanted procedures or treatments, ensure wishes are honored and improve decision-making challenges.

Here are 5 tips to help you have these important conversations with your medical providers:

  1. Share Your Beliefs. Do you have religious beliefs that would influence decisions about medical treatment options? 
  2. Ask About End of Life Options and Procedures. Learn about end-of-life care options and procedures to ensure you have accurate information.  Some individuals want to prolong life as long as possible using medical interventions, while others don’t want aggressive treatment or to be hooked up to machines at the end of life if there is no chance of recovery. Talking to your provider will help you have the accurate information you need to make decisions that are right for you.
  3. Share Concerns. Talk about your fears. Sharing your concerns will help your medical team make decisions about your care. For example, I am worried about being in pain, I don’t want to feel like I can’t breathe, I don’t want to die alone, I don’t want to make it more difficult for my family (dying at home vs. in the hospital), I am afraid of the unknown. Be honest about your fears. Think about situations you may have experienced with loved ones and how what you witnessed made you feel. Share why you fear what you fear. Make sure you are understood. Sharing these concerns can help your physicians align the needed support to help you gain peace of mind and comfort.
  4. Talk about Your Wishes. Share your wishes at the end of life. Would you prefer to pass at home, in a hospital, or in a hospice house? Do you want to be mentally aware? What degree of mental awareness would you choose over comfort from pain or symptoms? Do you want spiritual support? Do you want a grief counselor or chaplain available to loved ones?
  5. What role should your physicians play? Many physicians hesitate to have frank conversations about end of life care with their patients. They fear that their patients will feel they are giving up. Share with your physician what you expect their role to be. Do you want them to help guide you in other decisions like when it is time for aggressive treatment vs time to focus on quality of life? Do you want them to recommend hospice care when it is time? Do you prefer earlier referral to hospice care?

Speaking to your physician about your end of life care wishes can help ensure the development of a comprehensive treatment plan that is medically sound and that supports your wishes and values.

Our UpliftedCare team is here to help guide you through navigating decisions about options for care. We can provide insights on hospice and palliative care, and help you understand the real impact of our support. Reach out to us for answers, options and resources.