Addressing end-of-life care is not a conversation many people want to have. It is understandably unpleasant to think about, but necessary in order to avoid placing an unwanted burden on your loved ones during an already stressful time.
National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) exists to inspire, educate, and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD encourages patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare, and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. The only way this important decision can be made is to have a conversation with your loved ones and make decisions about your future.
The Conversation Project
The Conversation Project helps people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. The Conversation Project began in 2010, when Ellen Goodman, a group of colleagues and concerned media, clergy, and medical professionals gathered to share stories of “good deaths” and “bad deaths” within their own circle of loved ones.
The goal of the Conversation Project is to make it easier to initiate conversations about dying. It also encourages people to talk about advance care planning now so that their wishes are known when the time comes.
Conversations about end-of-life care shouldn’t start with physicians or within hospitals while facing life-threatening situations. They should start with family and friends, before an emergency occurs. Bethesda Hospice Care’s Community Liaison, Leslie Schaeffer, LMSW, is available to help guide seniors and their loved ones through the process of completing the following documents:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Living Will
- Advanced Directive
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
The durable power of attorney for health care is a document that identifies the person you trust to act on your behalf if you are unable to make health care decisions or communicate your wishes. Your power of attorney for health care should be someone you trust.
The advanced directive is a legal document that specifically describes your wishes for treatments when you are physically unable to do so and names your power of attorney for health care. Advanced directives are legally valid throughout the United States and become valid when you sign them in front of a witness. Advanced directives do not require an attorney.
A living will is a type of advanced directive that specifies which medical treatments you do or do not want at the end of your life. It also becomes effective if you are no longer able to make decisions on your own. They also usually require certification by your doctor and another person that you are indeed unable to make your own decision before they can take effect. You are considered not able to make decisions on your own if you are:
- Not able to understand the situation
- In a state specified by your living will or your state’s living will law
If you are not sure where to begin, there are resources available to you.