April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. This year’s theme is “It always seems too early, until it’s too late.” If your loved one has not created an advance directive, now is a good time to have “the conversation” about his or her wishes.
In the natural course of aging, and then dying, we humans usually get to a point where we are no longer able to make decisions or communicate our wishes effectively. In the case of dementia, this may happen years before a person dies. In the case of cancer, it may be that the last few weeks of life are a time when the person is in and out of consciousness and not able to think or speak clearly. In the case of a car accident, on a moment’s notice a person could be thrust into a coma.
The advance directive
Legal paperwork can be prepared in advance that will provide guidance about what an individual’s wishes are. It’s called an “advance directive” and has two components:
- Health care power of attorney. Naming a person to make decisions. This is sometimes called a “health care proxy” or a “health care surrogate.”
- Living will. Describing general preferences about medical interventions at the end of life, ranging on a continuum from “do everything to be kept alive” to “ensure comfort and freedom from pain, and allow a natural death.”
Having the conversation
At Legacy Home Care, we notice that many families have not had this important discussion. It’s a sensitive subject, to be sure. Most families say that the hardest part is getting it started. Once the ice is broken, everyone becomes more comfortable with the topic and it’s easier to talk about. It certainly saves guilt and stress later if decisions must be made and there’s been no conversation.
National Healthcare Decisions Day
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. This can be a great excuse to get the ball rolling. Write it on your calendar so it doesn’t become another one of those tasks that just gets put off. It truly will make for less stress, and less family conflict, if you have the conversation well ahead of the need.
Your changing role
Becoming the proxy decision maker is just one of several role changes you are likely experiencing as you care for your aging parent. We have many tips that can help you. Check out our article about Your Changing Role.
As the Nassau and Suffolk Counties experts in family caregiving, we are very experienced in helping families have “the conversation.” Give us a call at 631-880-6321. Whether it’s you with your loved one or simply meeting with your relative, we can help you get the documents in order so that if/when the time comes, everyone in the family will know what your loved one desires.