As hospice professionals, we have seen firsthand how difficult it is for family members who struggle to make decisions about critical or end-of-life-care for their loved ones—especially when they are unsure what their loved one would have wanted. And, unfortunately, few patients have this information clearly written before it is too late.

As a professional, you know how important advanced directives are. But do you have your wishes clearly written down? Do your family members?

The Need for Advance Directives

A January 2014 study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine surveyed more than 7,900 people. Only 26% had an advance directive for their medical care.

Although it may be difficult to think about, it is difficult to take our experience in the hospice industry to start discussions with our family members as the peace of mind it will provide down the road.

National Healthcare Decisions Day

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and other health organizations across the country are encouraging participation in National Healthcare Decisions Day–April 16, 2015. The goal is to encourage families to plan in advance for a situation where someone has to make medical decisions for someone else.

Use National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) by thinking about what you want in an advance directive, talk to those you want to act on your behalf, and write it down. Also, ask your loved ones to begin the process.

How To Start

Below are 5 questions to get you started with your own advance directive:

  • How aggressively do you want to pursue treatment?

Do you want to avoid excessive medical intervention or do you want whatever treatment will prolong your life?

  • Where do you want to die?

Would you like to be at home, in a hospice facility, or in a hospital?

  • Does your family know what you want regarding treatment in case you can’t make medical decisions yourself?

Talk to your family so they know your wishes.

  • Have you appointed someone to act on your behalf if you can’t?

Have a Power of Attorney that appoints someone to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to.

  • Are your documents in order?

Prepare a living will, a power of attorney, and an advance healthcare directive, sign, and keep them in a safe place.

Start the Conversation

Having your advance directives in writing can help your family and caregivers provide quality, compassionate care if you face terminal illness or injury. On Thursday, April 16 make your healthcare decisions and encourage others to begin thinking about their own.