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End of Life Planning: A Difficult Subject for Many

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It is often difficult to imagine your end of life care-or end of life care for a loved one-in the event you or your loved one becomes incapable of making health care decisions.

National Healthcare Decisions Day would like to change that. This April 16 is the 7th annual National Healthcare Decisions Day. On this day we encourage you to make your future healthcare choices known and protected.

Why should you bother with end-of-life planning?

There are several reasons.

First, advance care planning allows you to think about important issues when you don't have to make immediate decisions or are under intense emotional stress. Another important factor is that it's good to know your loved ones understand your personal wishes should you suddenly become unable to speak for yourself. And, if you happen to become the decision maker for a loved one who is incapacitated you don't have to guess what that loved one wants. You'll be prepared to act based on what you know. This advance care planning will also help avoid serious family conflict if you and your loved ones have different views on end of life care.

How do you get started with advance care planning?

You can begin advance care planning by considering the following questions:

  • What represents a good quality of life to you?
  • What concerns you the most about death or dying?
  • How would you want to spend the last month of your life?
  • Some people want to have everything possible done to delay death. Others do not want dying to be prolonged. Where do you fit in with these two requests?
  • If you are in a position where you cannot speak for yourself, who do you want to make these decisions for you?

What are the next steps?

Advance care planning is a process. You may want to schedule an appointment with a medical caregiver such as your primary care physician, nurse practitioner or specialist.

In addition, you may want to complete a document called an Advance Health Care Directive which allows you to state in writing your individual wishes for end of life care. For more information on the Advance Health Care Directive, click here. (courtesy Sutter Health) To download an Advance Health Care Directive, click here. (courtesy Sutter Health)

Please take the time today to think about your wishes or the wishes of your loved one. Start a conversation using the questions above and take the next step and prepare an Advance Health Care Directive. Advance care planning will not only help you shape the last stage of life, it will also give you peace of mind to know your decisions are in place and will be honored.