What is advance care planning?
National Health Care Decisions Day held annually on April 16 reminds us “it is always too early until it is too late” to think of who we would want to make health care decisions for us when and if we cannot make those decisions for ourselves. Many people think this will NEVER happen to them! We all know of someone who had a sudden illness or a chronic illness which grew worse rapidly that did not make any plans–leaving their family and friends to make tough decisions without any direction. Those watching the scenario unfold are often heard saying “I hope that never happens to me” or “I hope MY children act differently towards each other” but then never put those thoughts in writing or tell others what they would want in such a situation. Advance care planning is not just the completion of a form (living will or health care power of attorney). It should be conversations with those we love and trust about the many things that are important to us as we age. These discussions may be the BEST GIFT you can leave your family. Importantly, the health care power of attorney also known as a surrogate decision maker is the person YOU HAVE CHOSEN to make decisions for you. It may be your best friend, niece or son in law rather than any of your children! The most significant thing is to discuss details with your family and decision makers and write those conversations and decisions down as clearly as you can. Remember that NO DECISION about these things is a DECISION but this may lead to unnecessary turmoil in your family long after you are gone! Remember that these conversations change the lives of those you leave behind. There are many helpful tools available for FREE at la-post.org, nhdd.org and americanbar.org.