National Healthcare Decision Day is observed yearly on April 16th. It was founded in 2008 by Nathan Kottkamp, a lawyer from Virginia who recognized the importance of providing clear, concise, and consistent information for families as it relates to making healthcare decisions. His goal was for people to make decisions about potentially serious situations ahead of time.
I advise families to “Plan by Choice Because You Can’t Plan When You’re in a Crisis.”
Rather than thinking these are unpleasant conversations or situations to consider, there is a tremendous cost to poor decisions; financially, emotionally and psychologically. Planning ahead saves time and money, leads to healthier choices and affords us the opportunity to receive the best possible treatment. This could potentially improve the chances of healing and a quicker recovery.
Actually, we plan for uncertainty and unpleasant situations. Personally, I carry an umbrella in my car at all times in the event of rain, we carry vehicle insurance if we own and drive a vehicle, and likely have medical insurance in the event of medical need. However, we don’t have the necessary conversations to plan for care that is the certainty that comes along with aging.
These are often difficult conversations to have, especially if it is a conversation with an older parent or loved one. It often requires bringing together healthcare professionals, legal, community leaders, and community organizations available for and joining forces with families for the benefit of making the best possible care decisions. There are organizations that can offer assistance, one of which is
the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) which is a public or private nonprofit agency designated by a state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at the regional and local levels.
Throughout my years of experience, I can safely say that more-often-than-not there are situations that occur when we least expect them. One could say that is something we learned from the pandemic. This may be especially true if a person is living with an underlying condition, especially if we have an older parent or loved one.
if you have an older parent or loved one it’s more than likely as they get up in years, just like with a car with 60,000, 70,000 or 80,000 miles something is going to happen. Has this ever happened to you or anyone you know?
The phone rings and you hear a voice at the other ended saying your loved one had an accident, a heart attack, stroke, or change in mental status.
Your loved one is in the hospital. After a couple of days, someone from the hospital tells you he/she needs therapy following discharge, rehabilitation that may be needed before going home. You will be informed that they will be transferred to a short-term rehabilitation unit of a skilled nursing home.
You don’t know where to turn, how do you know how to find a good place? There is no time. The hospital discharge is imminent, usually within a couple of days.
How much help does your loved one actually need? Can you take them to your home? Can they go to their home with help? Are there adequate finances so he/she can receive help at home? These are just a few of the many questions to which you need answers.
It’s hard to get all the necessary information you need in a couple of days when you are already under stress, worried about your loved one, overwhelmed with other obligations.
There are books, questionnaires, and advice on the internet. But where do you start? It takes hours to go through and understand the information.
Questions alone are not adequate. It’s the information behind the questions that is important in order to determine you’re getting the right answers.
Developing a health care plan includes advance directives. Advance directives include power of attorney and durable power of attorney, a living will, health care proxy.
Consulting with an eldercare attorney is a good place to start. The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging provides free resources on health care planning. Other online resources you can tap into for information. These include:
Links to State-Specific Advance Directive Forms, free resources which include downloadable forms and information from state bar associations and other reputable state groups (January 2018)
State Health Care Power of Attorney Statutes: Selected Characteristics, this January 2018 update provides a state-by-state overview.
If you haven’t already done so, yesterday April 16 was the best time to take-action on those words. As they say, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the 2nd best time is now.
Furthermore, April is National Stress Awareness Month.
Making care decisions when the crisis hits is an extraordinarily stressful situation. I’ve experienced this with thousands of families throughout my 45+ year career working in long-term care environments as a gerontological speech/language pathologist.
For information on how to begin these conversations, facilitating and/or mediating these conversations and information from the valuable inside perspective of 45+ years in long-term care email: