College education. Career path. Relationships. Starting a family. Buying or selling a house. Vacations. Retirement.
From the age that we’re old enough to understand, most of us are taught and accept that these are some of the big things in life that we need to think and talk about, and plan for. However, there’s one key thing that all too often is missing from this list: healthcare decision making.
Like planning for these other major life events, planning for the time (or times) that we are unable to express our healthcare wishes is of the utmost importance. It is something that should be well thought out, documented and revisited at different points in life to reflect any change in our desires or family situation or the person we wish to advocate for us. Unfortunately, it is a planning point that that majority of us have missed. As a consequence, I often see patients’ families suffer the added burden of having to guess what their loved one would want when a health crisis occurs.
National Healthcare Decision Day (NHDD), which happens every April 16, is a nationwide advance care planning awareness initiative. I hope that you will join me in taking this time to discuss and document your healthcare wishes. Share your advance directive with your healthcare providers and make sure it is on file in the event it is needed. There are many free resources, including free advance directive forms for each of the 50 states, on the NHDD website or on the Roper St. Francis website.
If you have questions, concerns or are wondering where to start in getting your documents and plans in order, Roper St. Francis is hosting two free programs that may help:
National Healthcare Decision Day Panel
Thursday, April 16, 10 a.m. – 12 noon
Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital Mall Classroom 1
RSF Cancer Center Free Legal Clinic, co-sponsored by Charleston School of Law
Friday, April 17, 12 – 2 p.m.
RSF Cancer Center on Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital campus
(Attorneys will explain legal documents such as Durable Powers of Attorney)
By Scott Lake, MD, medical director of RSF Palliative Care