“Healthcare decisions,” might sound like some far-off bridge you’ll cross when you get to it, but the reality is that our health is unpredictable. We really don’t know when healthcare decisions will need to be made or if someone else will need to be making them for us.
Over the last few years, people are seeing the importance of getting a plan in place that will protect them, their family, and their assets. Scenarios in which we’re unable to make our own healthcare decisions are not easy to think about, but they are important to discuss with people that you know and trust, the people that will most likely have to make those difficult healthcare decisions on your behalf.
National Healthcare Decision Day (NHDD) was founded in 2008 by Virginia-based health care lawyer, Nathan Kottkamp, because he saw the pitfalls in our healthcare system that occur when people fail to discuss their healthcare wishes or have a plan in place. He chose April 16th to remind us that even though it’s tax season, there are some other human experiences we can be certain to face.
But National Healthcare Decision Day goes far beyond our “last wishes.” It is about making sure someone knows what we value so that they can confidently make decisions for us if the need ever arises. It can be daunting to think about someone else having the final say in our health care, but imagine being the one making those decisions and not having the slightest clue of what the person in the hospital needs or wants.
Give your loved ones the confidence that they’re making the right decision.
Not only is it important to communicate your wishes to your friends and family, it is often necessary to outline them in a legally binding document (or two). An Advance Directive, often referred to as a “Machines or No Machines Document,” is a legal document in which you explicitly state what type of medical care you’d like under certain circumstances.
But it’s impossible to predict exactly what your circumstances are going to be, so take April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day, to have these conversations with the folks who need to know. Check out The Conversation Project’s “Conversation-Starter” guides on their website. The Conversation Project recommends discussing what you value in your life in order to better understand what to prioritize in the event that you become incapacitated. These broader conversations help prepare your loved ones for unpredictable medical events, as opposed to only discussing very specific circumstances that might not ever occur.
Another legally binding document that can be helpful in ensuring you receive the care you desire is called a “Medical Power of Attorney.” If you don’t have this document in place, then your state will defer to their laws which dictate who will make your medical decisions in the event that you become incapacitated. For instance, if you’re married, more often than not, your spouse will be the one to speak on your behalf. Getting a Medical Power of Attorney not only allows you to name whomever you wish to speak on your behalf, but also allows you to name alternates in the event that your initial agent is not able to act at the time or in the place you might need them to.
Celebrate National Healthcare Decisions Day– start the conversation with your loved ones.
For healthcare decisions, it can be very beneficial to have your wishes in legally enforceable documents because doctors often prefer to take every measure possible in order to keep you alive. And while this is a noble stance for doctors to take, there are certain circumstances in which this approach may be distressing for you and your loved ones.
Celebrating National Healthcare Decision Day with honest conversations about your values can bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones. It might be difficult to begin such a conversation, but it pales in comparison to the difficulty of making healthcare decisions for someone else without any directions.