Living Wills, Healthcare Agents, and Advanced Care Planning
National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD is an initiative of The Conversation Project, and is designed to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be.
82% of people say it’s important to put their wishes into writing.
But only 23% have actually done it.
80% of people say that if seriously ill, they would want to talk to their doctor about wishes for medical treatment toward the end of their life.
But only 7% report having had this conversation with their doctor.
If you were unable to speak for yourself, what would be most important for your friends, family, and physicians to know?
The key goal of NHDD is to change these statistics by demystifying healthcare decision-making and making the topic of advance care planning unavoidable. Advance care planning is more than a living will, but starts with conversations and should involve choosing a healthcare agent. Furthermore, advance care planning is for everyone, at any (or no) disease stage. NHDD encourages all of us to have conversations before crisis and to begin to see advance care planning as a gift we can give to our loved ones and future selves.
What’s a healthcare agent?
A healthcare agent is a person you choose in advance to make healthcare decisions for you in the event that you become unable to do so. Here’s a quick video, called Who Will Speak for You, about choosing the best healthcare agent for you: https://youtu.be/iTxv-20ULwQ
What’s a living will?
Sometimes called a personal directive, advance directive, or medical directive, a living will is a legal document in which you specify what actions should or should not be taken for your health in the case you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. There are many, many different forms of living will, some several pages long and some as short as two. You may wish to check out this resource: Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney
Where do I start?
We’re so glad you’re ready to get started! You can check out some resources online with The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit. Touch base with your oncology social workers, palliative care Nurse Practitioners, or chaplain with any questions or concerns, or leave a comment.
- What questions do you have about advance care planning?
- Have you had conversations about you and your loved ones’ wishes?
- What advice would you give to others who are about to start having these conversations?
Here is another resource you may wish to look at or use: Advance Care Planning One-Pager