Have a Tough Discussion This National Healthcare Decisions Day

In hospice care, the discussions of end-of-life treatment often come too-little-too-late for many families, causing confusion, frustration, and as if they were cheated out of time with their loved one. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

In light of National Healthcare Decisions Day (Tuesday, April 16), EveryStep urges families to take the often difficult first step in talking to their loved ones about their healthcare wishes at the end of their life.

“It’s important for families to have these discussions, however difficult,” said Stacy Larreau, EveryStep executive director of hospice. “We advise families to start the conversation early, document loved one’s wishes with advance directives, and ensure doctors and other family members are informed. Discussing death doesn’t mean your loved one is living on borrowed time. In fact, creating an end-of-life healthcare plan can actually help them live their lives on their terms. Plus, it offers reassurance to family members because are confident they know their loved one’s healthcare wishes.”

EveryStep strives to work with patients, families, caregivers, and other healthcare providers to ensure that future healthcare wishes are considered. Whether patients want to remain active and independent, or spend time alone with their families, these decisions can affect the types of choices they make regarding their healthcare wishes.

When put into writing, those healthcare wishes can become advance directives – documents that provide guidance and instructions for those entrusted with a loved one’s care. 

Advance directives are legal documents that allow people to give directions for their medical care, should they become unable to speak for themselves. There are several types of advance directive documents; two major documents used in Iowa are the durable power of attorney for healthcare (DPOAH) and the living will.

In a DPOAH document, an individual can appoint a person to make decisions about his or her medical care if he or she is unable to make those decisions due to illness or injury.

A living will enables an individual to describe his or her wishes about the administration of medical treatment or life-sustaining procedures if he or she becomes unable to communicate due to a serious or terminal condition.

Both types of advance directives only go into effect if a person is unable to communicate his or her wishes. People who are lucid or able can make their own healthcare decisions – even if those decisions contradict their advance directives.

EveryStep is pleased to provide information and tools for the public to talk about their wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers, and complete written advance directives in accordance with Iowa state laws.  Download these free resources by clicking the image below or call an EveryStep Hospice office near you.