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Tuesday, April 16, 2013 has been set aside as National Healthcare Decisions Day. The North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers encourages everyone eighteen and older to consider and communicate their particular end-of-life wishes. Most people have some idea of their end-of-life preferences, but few people communicate these preferences to their loved ones, physician, or other healthcare providers. Likewise, most people believe they know their family members’ end-of-life wishes but few actually confirm this through discussion; usually, because they anticipate an unpleasant and difficult conversation. According to The Conversation Project “60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is ‘extremely important’ [but] 56% have not communicated their end of life wishes.” Their website, and many others, are linked at the National Healthcare Decisions Day website, www.nhdd.org. Valuable tools and suggestions for having an end-of-life discussion with the important people in your life are offered.
The first step is having a specific and clear idea of one’s end-of-life preferences. Next, it’s important to communicate these preferences to loved ones and to put them into writing. An Advance Directive is a document that specifies end-of-life preferences, especially pertaining to withholding treatment in certain circumstances. Designating a decision-maker by completing a Healthcare Power of Attorney will be an important step to ensure that your preferences are honored if you are unable to communicate your wishes personally due to incapacity. Both documents are available in formatted forms, usually available through hospitals or online. Having the documents prepared by an attorney is another option.
Learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day at www.nhdd.org.
Contact DeWitt Black, ACSW, LCSW at email@example.com
NASW-NC members can visit the NASW-NC Health Care Practice Network