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National Healthcare Decisions Day

Death and taxes - the only two inevitables. With April 15 as tax day, it's only fitting that April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day (or, a great day to discuss with your loved ones and care providers how you wish to live until the end). That means talking about what kind of care you want to receive and don't want to receive, where you want to be cared for, what your life goals are before you go, and what your loved ones should do if you can't communicate for yourself, among other issues.

Death and taxes - the only two inevitables. With April 15 as tax day, it's only fitting that April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day (or, a great day to discuss with your loved ones and care providers how you wish to live until the end). That means talking about what kind of care you want to receive and don't want to receive, where you want to be cared for, what your life goals are before you go, and what your loved ones should do if you can't communicate for yourself, among other issues.

While many of us know we should have these conversations, few of us have. I was at an Institute of Medicine (IOM) meeting on end-of-life care last week when it occurred to me: my husband and I have had some discussions about our end-of-life preferences but we haven't fully explored the issue. We haven't completed documents like a living will or an advance directive. When I raised that at my lunch table at the IOM, I learned that I was not alone. 90 percent of people surveyed say that talking to their loved ones about end-of-life care is important; however, only 27 percent have done it. Only 23 percent have put their wishes in writing (The Conversation Project National Survey).

The result of failing to have the talk can be tragic. Patients and families are often faced with great uncertainty at a point when they want to focus on quality time with each other. Patients without an end-of-life care plan often face the default "do everything" approach of modern medicine. This can mean receiving treatments that cause more pain and shorten life, rather than providing more meaningful time with the people we love.

This April 16, I'm changing that for my husband and myself. If you are in the same boat as me, I urge you to do the same. And then urge your friends, your family, and your colleagues.

Advanced care planning should not be something we reserve until later in life. The need can strike at any time- whether because of an unforeseen accident, early onset of disease, or because of the need to care for a friend or loved one.

We at VNAA have been talking about our own experiences with advanced care planning. Our team represents different points in life when advanced care planning is critical. We have some staff members who have already been the caretakers for partners with early onset disease. One of our team just became the medical power of attorney for a friend. Several of us are newlyweds who are beginning to plan lives with our new spouses. Others are young adults with aging parents and grandparents. We all need to be planning. We all need to be having the talk with those we love.

Between today and the end of April, the VNAA will provide a number of resources to assist you in having the talk. These include:

Please check back here as we expand our resources over the coming weeks.

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