National Healthcare Decisions DayGet M.A.D., make a  decision, and let your voice be heard!

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is April 16th, and is a nation-wide annual initiative that was established to inspire and educate the public about the importance of life care planning (or advanced healthcare planning).

What is Life Care Planning?

In a nutshell, life care planning involves decisions about your end of life care (also known as advance directives).  ‘Advance directives’ is an umbrella term that includes two main forms:  ‘living wills’ and ‘healthcare power of attorneys.’  A ‘living will’ documents which kinds of medical treatments you want or do not want to happen at the end of life.  A ‘healthcare power of attorney’ (i.e., proxy, agent, or surrogate) documents the person you select to be your voice for your healthcare decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself.  Sounds sensible and basic, right?

Yet a majority of Arizonans (and Americans for that matter) do NOT have a life care plan in place.  According to  survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2006, only 29 percent of people had a living will; in 2007, a Harris Interactive study put the proportion with advance directives at two in five.  And in an article by the New York Times, researchers from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported was quoted as stating that even among “severely or terminally ill patients,” the majority had no advance directives in their medical records.  Why is this?

Your Life – Your Choice

Beyond the emotional discomfort that oft occurs when discussing and planning end of life care, one reason is that advance directives can be misperceived.  Contrary to popular belief, living wills are broad in spectrum. If you want extensive life prolonging treatment, fine; if you’d prefer to forgo such measures, that is fine, too.  Living wills offer you an opportunity to make those wishes heard ahead of time.

In addition, some people think that drafting advance directives are complicated, expensive, and require legal assistance.  But this is just false.  You don’t necessarily need a lawyer to get your wishes on record.  Every state, including Arizona, has life care planning forms available on line.  You can visit the Arizona Attorney General website and download forms for free.

To hear an interview on healthcare directives with Dr. Nayeri (of Arizona Healthy Aging, A-HA), click here.  There are also numerous organizations that offer access to free resources and guidance, e.g., National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Healthcare Decisions Day website.

Make A Decision

While life care planning is not always easy, it is extremely important.  Our decisions matter, yet if they are not memorialized properly – so that our doctors and loved ones clearly know what it is that we do (or do not) want to occur – our decisions (and voice) can fall by the wayside.   On behalf of ADHS: A-HA, Licensing, AHCA, AGO, DES [AAA’s], Fire Departments, Right Care Foundation, MEAPA, NVCOA, Banner, Scottsdale Health Care, we encourage you to take charge of your life, get M.A.D. (make a decision) on National Healthcare Decisions Day, and let your voice be heard!