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National Health Care Decisions Day

April 16, 2024

Talking about death is never easy, but all of us will have to face it eventually. It’s better to think about it, plan for it, and have conversations before it’s too late to do so. While we can’t plan for everything, we can talk about what’s most important in our life and our health care with those who are closest to us.

There is a special day for advance care planning.  April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day(NHDD), a day to educate and empower the public and healthcare providers about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD is a nationwide initiative that encourages adults of all ages to plan ahead of a health crisis. Advance care planning also means sharing this information with your loved ones and your medical providers to ensure your wishes are honored.


On April 16th, a series of independent events are held across the country, supported by a national media and public education campaign. It was started in 2008 by Nathan Kottkamp, a Virginia-based healthcare lawyer.

Advance Care planning is the process by which individuals and family members identify patient preferences for end-of-life care in the event that we are no longer able to communicate our wishes. The main documents are the Living Will and the Health Care Surrogate Form.


·      The Living Will addresses health care you want in the event that you can no longer make your own decisions. For example, if you’d like to die at home, with end-of-life care for pain and other symptoms, and you let your family members and health care providers know this, you’re less likely to die in a hospital receiving unwanted treatments.


·      The Health Care Surrogate Form allows you to appoint a spokesperson to advocate for your plan and to make decisions for you when you’re not able to speak for yourself. The person you pick for this important role needs to understand and accept your wishes. It can be a family member, but it might not be. It should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes, even in the face of opposition from family members or medical personnel.

There are many free advance care directive forms on the internet. Each state provides its own forms, as well. My personal favorite form is Five Wishes ( I like it because It's written in everyday language. The instructions are easy to understand and complete. It’s thorough; it covers personal, spiritual, medical and legal wishes in one document, and it’s valid in all 50 states. You can order a digital or paper copy online.

When we make health decisions ahead of time and put our wishes in writing, we bring peace of mind to ourselves and our loved ones. We are more likely to avoid the difficult situations that are so common when people become seriously ill and their loved ones are left to guess what they would have wanted.

If you need assistance, motivation, or someone to guide you through the process, please reach out for help. End of Life Doulas are trained in helping people talk about, plan for, and fill out paperwork that allows their wishes to be carried out.

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