“It always seems to early, until it’s too late”
On April 20th, Mosaic Connections will promote “The Conversation” and NHDD in the Allen Park Library and Zeal Credit Union.
National Healthcare Decisions Day became nationally recognized in 2008. As described in the NHDD.org website: “NHDD is an initiative of The Conversation Project, exists as a 50-state annual initiative to provide clear, concise, and consistent information on healthcare decision-making to both the public and providers/facilities through the widespread availability and dissemination of simple, free, and uniform tools (not just forms) to guide the process.”
Typically NHDD is celebrated on one day, April 16th, but this year there is emphasis on the entire week of April 16th through the 22nd. Each day has been given a tag line to highlight a different perspective of healthcare planning. Sunday’s theme is ‘Prepare’, (suggesting you gather information) Monday’s theme is ‘Start with Yourself’, aimed toward thinking about one’s own healthcare wishes. The theme on Tuesday is Family/Friends/Loved ones, encouraging you to discuss your wishes with others as well as finding out their own wishes…. and so on throughout the week, helping to break down the process in understandable and doable steps. Visiting the NHDD website will provide interested individuals, family members and healthcare professionals valuable information and support and is a wonderful resource.
What is remarkable about completing an advance directive is that it is a legal document that assures one’s choices will still be honored even if they are unable to verbalize them. It is a right that most of us take for granted. Unfortunately most people assume their wishes will be honored without any forethought, shared discussion or preemptive effort on their own part. Most people believe someone will know them well enough to honor their preferences, including the healthcare professionals, and will make decisions based on their own personal preferences. But in the clinical setting the reality is that those unspoken or undocumented wishes lead to delays, confusion and often a fracture of a family that is faced with decisions they are unprepared for or are willing to take the responsibility of making.
Having an advance directive helps to provide the best possible outcome that end of life medical choices, if you are unable to make them, are honored. The value of having a recognized spokesperson (advocate) is in itself an assurance that the person chosen by you will be responsible for decision-making on your behalf. The advocate’s authority combined with their awareness of your values and preferences is meant to ensure that their decision will come as close as possible to an autonomous decision you yourself would make. But despite of the advantages of having an advance directive, many people do not have one.
Some of the factors for not completing an advance directive include people’s misunderstanding of what the document is for, a lack of access or support in completing the form or a lack of awareness that this sort of a document is available. Often people are hesitant about discussing end of life issues or are unsure how to go about it. Family members themselves will tend to opt out of participating in the discussion. Additionally, there is a sense of ‘finality’ that concerns people who are contemplating doing an advance directive, in that they fear a choice they make today will lock them into a change of mind in the future.
Mosaic Connections believes that decisions about what sort of medical care we would or wouldn’t want at the end of our life falls into the same category as other major decisions that come throughout the course of life. Major decisions require gathering accurate information as well as relying on the feedback and support of those we trust and care about. It does matter to us what others think, feel and need. Major life decisions become easier with the support of others and we find comfort in a shared responsibility about the decisions that are made. Advance care planning involves the same elements that are important to us throughout our lifespan.
NHDD.org and The Conversation Project recognize that the completion of an advance directive document is a process. Mosaic Connections invites those in our own neighborhood to begin that process by providing a forum for local residents to ask questions and find out more about advance care planning. We will be available April 20th in the Allen Park (MI) Zeal Credit Union lobby from 12-2pm ( 7240 Park Ave) and the Allen Park Library from 4- 6pm ( 8100 Allen Road). We welcome your questions and we are proud to be a part of National Health Care Decisions Day.