Have You Talked About Advance Care Planning?

On Monday, April 16, we celebrate National Healthcare Decision Day as a part of the National Healthcare Decision Week during Monday, April 16, through Sunday, April 22. Since its beginnings in 2008, this national campaign aims to inspire, educate and empower the public and healthcare providers about the importance of advance care planning. The need for this day is clear when we consider that best estimates have only 35 percent of the adult population in the US with advance directives in place.

These directives are free and do not require a lawyer. While making decisions are often difficult in the best of circumstances, it is even more difficult for others to do so in a time of crises or high emotion. One of the best gifts we can give our children and loved ones is the peace of mind that they are carrying out our wishes when the end of life approaches. The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is the form that is truly helpful for end of life decision making.

This document names a health care “agent” who can speak for you and make medical decisions for you when you no longer can speak for yourself. Everyone aged 18 and older needs this document to avoid having a court-ordered agent assigned to you. This can be expensive and time-consuming.

“The most important thing is to have the conversation with the people that you love around the kitchen table and to have it early,” says Ellen Goodman, a Pulitzer Prizewinning writer who founded The Conversation Project, which provides tools to help people have conversations about

end-of-life issues. Talking about end of life issues can be stressful as it is in our nature not to think about these topics. Taking time to thoughtfully think through your values and wishes and communicating this is time well spent. The Conversation Project has a helpful starter kit. There are questions to consider alone and together with your healthcare agent, which you can find by visiting their website: conversationproject .org I put this conversation off for a long time with my family. They are reluctant to talk about anything on this subject and I have found that getting started has been difficult. Difficult but not impossible. I will keep trying until it is done and advanced directives are present for all of us. I hope that you find the same spirit of persistence for your family, loved ones and for yourself.

If you are interested in learning more about how to start this conversation with your partner, visit Christine Freund from the Aging & Disability Resource Center partner from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, April 14, at the Great Marriages Office in Sheboygan.

For more details, please visit the National Health Care Decisions Day website at https:// www.nhdd.org, email them at nhdd@ihi.org, or call them at (804) 775- 1092.

Annette Selk, RN, BSN, is a public health nurse with Health and Human Services in the Division of Public Health and serves on the coalition for Advanced Care Planning.