A Reminder About Healthcare Decisions Day

Published: April 1, 2024

A Reminder About Healthcare Decisions Day

In the whirlwind of life, we often assume we’ll always be in control of our healthcare decisions. Yet, reality can be unpredictable. A sudden stroke, a serious accident, or declining health may render us unable to communicate our preferences for medical care. It’s a sobering truth that underscores the importance of planning ahead, both for yourself and your loved ones.

As April 16 approaches, National Healthcare Decisions Day serves as a reminder to prepare for unforeseen circumstances. Advance directives—legal documents designed to guide healthcare choices—offer peace of mind and ensure our wishes are respected, even if we can’t voice them.

There are two primary types of advance directives:

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPOAH): Also known as a healthcare proxy, agent, or representative, this legal document empowers a trusted individual  to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you cannot.

Selecting a healthcare representative requires thoughtful consideration. Identify someone willing to discuss your values and priorities and share your healthcare decisions with them. Make sure they are comfortable with and consent to serving in this role. Appointing a healthcare proxy enhances your control over medical decisions when you’re unable to make them.

Healthcare directive or living will: This document enables you to outline specific healthcare preferences as you near the end of life. From CPR to ventilators and antibiotics, you can express which treatments you would desire or decline. Contrary to popular belief, living wills aren’t solely for refusing treatment but allow you to specify your preferences clearly.

Drafting an advance directive means you specify your treatment preferences in advance. Make sure copies are provided to your primary physician, healthcare representative, and relevant healthcare institutions. Discussing your directives with family and friends mitigates potential conflicts and ensures your wishes are respected.

Other aspects of advance health care planning

Beyond advance directives, consider these additional aspects:

  • Personal values statement: Supplementing advance directives, personal values statements articulate your beliefs and priorities in healthcare based on how you’d like to live, offering clarity to decision-makers.
  • DNR orders and POLST forms: Do-not-resuscitate orders and physician orders for life-sustaining treatment forms provide clear instructions regarding resuscitation preferences. These forms must be discussed with healthcare providers and should be stored where readily available. Learn more about Washington state’s POLST laws and sample forms on the Washington State Medical Association
  • Organ donation: Expressing your desire to donate organs or tissues ensures your wishes are honored. Communicate your decision with loved ones to avoid confusion.

National Healthcare Decisions Day encourages proactive engagement in healthcare planning. By preparing in advance, individuals assert control over their medical care, fostering peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones.

The Conversation Project offers resources to have “the conversation” about you or a loved one’s healthcare decisions. If you’ve already put your advance care planning in place, congratulations! Consider celebrating National Healthcare Decision Day by asking your friends and family members if they are ready, too.

Let’s embrace this opportunity to shape our healthcare journey with clarity and foresight.

Source: IlluminAge