Every day we are faced with big decisions and small ones and some of us are very adept at putting them off. One that I personally care quite a lot about is a major health care decision that I believe every senior should contemplate and then document. I have seen so many circumstances of not planning and the agony a family goes through that I have made it a personal goal to bring this factor out into the open.
I believe that all of our seniors with the capacity for decision-making should act on this, put in writing and communicate what their wishes are for end of life care. It is not morbid or depressing, but rather honest and respectful to the family we leave behind. It is an act of love to your loved ones to have shared this information and in the unlikely event that some medical mishap occurs; they know what you want them to do. It is also an assurance that your autonomy will be respected.
Medical care in the United States is a bit fragmented these days with the changes to physician payment and physicians no longer have the luxury of time with patients. They have little time to have that in-depth conversation with each of their older patients.
Living wills were instituted nearly 40 years ago and 90% of people have heard of them. Seventy one percent have thought about them but only 29% have acted on living wills and accomplished their own. National Health Care Decision Day was established seven years ago to inspire, educate and empower the public and health care organizations about the importance of advance care planning. This year it is April 16th 2014. That would be a good target date for families to shoot for accomplishing this.
We are a culture of procrastinators. Just look at all the people who are getting their taxes done in the last minute or signing up for the Affordable Care on the last allowed day. The thing that is agonizing about this is just how awful it can go for both the suddenly unresponsive adult and the family member left to decide. Decisions like this have destroyed relationships and caused tremendous guilt in survivors.
My advice is to go into the website www.nhdd.org and consider the why of taking care of this. Then go on-line and pull up your state’s Advance Health Care Directive. Think about it, fill it out, talk about it with a trusted person and make and deliver copies. You do not need an attorney, however you do need a witness to your signature that should be a person who is not a relative or beneficiary. It is an act of love to your family.