National Health Care Decisions Day
April 16th is official National Health Care Decisions Day – dedicated to building awareness of the importance of advance health care planning. A 2006 study revealed that despite the fact that 71% of Americans had thought about end-of-life preferences and 95% had heard of a living will, only 29% actually had a living will.
The process should begin with a conversation that focuses on a senior’s care preferences and clarifies their personal values. Once these are established, it is time to begin work on advance care directives. These ensure that the senior will receive the kind of care that they want if they cannot communicate for themselves.
Typical situations covered by advance care directives are:
- The use of breathing and dialysis machines
- “Do not resuscitate” (DNR) orders, which prevent the use of CPR if breathing or heartbeat stops
- The use of an IV or feeding tube, if someone cannot eat or drink for themselves
- Treatment for pain (also called comfort care or palliative care)
- Donating organs or other body tissues
There are two documents used to establish one’s wishes for medical care and ensure that they are followed. The first document is a written statement of a person’s medical preferences if they become incapacitated. In Missouri, this form is officially called a declaration, though it is commonly known as a living will.
The second document allows seniors to appoint someone (usually a family member) to act on their behalf in the event that they are unable to do so themselves. In Missouri (and most states) this document is called a durable power of attorney for health care.
The varying factors and terminology regarding future health care decisions can be intimidating and confusing, but the results are life changing. Honor National Health Care Decisions Day by starting the discussion about future care with someone you love.
If you need help getting started or could use a professional referral, please contact us. As veterans in our industry and long-standing members of our community, we are happy to share our insight and resources.
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