National Healthcare Decisions Day

Calendar_0We all know the significance of April 15th each year, but do you know why April 16th is also important for you and your family?  April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. 

The goal of this “National” day is to inspire, educate and empower the public about the importance of advance care planning.  Advance care planning involves taking the time to carefully consider and document your preferences around end-of life care.  It also includes the act of legally designating and empowering an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you were to become unable to do so for yourself.

Although these can be uncomfortable topics to consider, approaching these conversations proactively will allow you to stay in better control of the future, whether you are able to personally voice your preferences, or are reliant on someone else.  The primary benefits of advance care planning include;

  • Careful consideration of your wants and desires at end-of-life
  • Documentation of those desires, including life-sustaining measures to be avoided or applied
  • Requests for specific comfort measures , surroundings or companions as death approaches
  • Selection of an agent to act on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself
  • Communication to ensure the agent understands their duties, your desires and will seek to carry out your wishes if necessary
  • Provide clarity and reduce conflict within your family when these issues are encountered at end-of-life

Advance Care Planning involves consideration of the choices, communication and documentation of your preferences.  It facilitates the communication of these and provides clarity for your agents thereby reducing the possibility of conflict within the family at the point of need.

If you have already prepared Health Care Power of Attorney and Advance Directives/Living Will documents, are you done?

Consider the following;

  1. Does your Health Care Power of Attorney document have both a primary and an alternate agent listed to speak on your behalf? Many couples set up their documents to name each other as agent, but never consider who should speak for them if they were involved in a common accident and were unable to speak their preferences.
  2. Many documents which were drafted many years ago do not include the HIPAA waiver necessary to grant authority for the medical facility to give access to your medical records to the agent on your HCPOA. If this is the case, your HCPOA could be refused access to important medical information needed to make a good decision.
  3. Do your named agents know they have been listed in your documents? Do they have a copy of your HCPOA and Advance Directives so they could access them easily if needed?  Have you had discussions with your agent to give them insight into what your preferences really are and how you want to be treated, or not, given certain situations?   Will your agent be willing to follow through with your wishes when the time comes?

The best time to think about and prepare for your future is now, before issues arise.  If you would like to discuss the status of your documents, or if you need to prepare these documents for yourself or a loved one, contact your advisor or estate planning attorney to take a proactive approach to your end-of-life decisions.

Click here for a resource on what to do once your documents have been prepared.