National Healthcare Decisions Day

Each April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations committed to ensuring all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions. NHDD exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.

As an NHDD participating organization, HCI Care Services is providing information and tools for the public to talk about their wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers, and execute written advance directives (healthcare power of attorney and living will) in accordance with Iowa state laws.  Now is the time to complete these documents – before they are needed.

Advance Directives

There are two types of advance directives: durable power of attorney for healthcare and living will.  Both kinds of advance directives can help free your family of the responsibility and stress of making difficult decisions for you. People often assume that their family will be able to make decisions for them even if they have not prepared an advance directive.  However, forcing family members to make such choices for you places a tremendous burden on them.  Naming someone as your durable power of attorney for healthcare helps ensure the "right person for the job".  But in addition to designating the person to speak on your behalf should you know longer be able to do so, it's also important to share with him/her how you'd wish to be treated.

Once finished, give copies of advance directives to your doctor, family members and close friends, as appropriate.  You can change or cancel the forms at any time, but they are virtually useless if no one knows about them when the need arises.

Consider the Conversation

HCI Care Services recently sponsored the award-winning documentary “Consider the Conversation: A Documentary on a Taboo Subject” on Iowa Public Television. This thought-provoking film showing issues we will all face at the end of life, inspiring discussion about this subject.  Contact Katie at (515) 333-4258 if you are interested in having a private screening and guided discussion at your next meeting. 

Durable power of attorney for healthcare

Durable power of attorney for healthcare, also known as "healthcare proxy" or "appointment of a healthcare agent", lets you name a person to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so.  Make sure the person you choose clearly understands your values and beliefs and is willing and able to speak out on your behalf. 

Click here for a copy of the combined living will and medical power of attorney form from the Iowa State Bar Association. This form allows you to designate a proxy to speak on your behalf should you no longer be able to do so.  If you do not designate a durable power of attorney for healthcare, your next of kin will automatically take on that decision-making role, in accordance with the law in most states.

In Iowa, no attorney or notary is necessary so long as the form is signed in the presence of two eligible witnesses.  Witnesses must be at least 18 years old and may not be appointed attorneys, health care providers presently treating the Declarant/Principal, or employees of such a health care provider. One of the two witnesses must not be related to the Declarant/Principal by blood, marriage or adoption.

Living Wills

Living wills, also known as "medical directives" "healthcare treatement directive" or "healthcare declarations", are written instructions that explain your wishes for healthcare in the event you can't communicate as a result of a terminal condition or irreversible coma.  Click here for Gift of Peace of Mind, a healthcare treatment directive. 

Gift of Peace of Mind is a helpful end-of-life planning document that can walk you through the difficult decisions you may be faced with one day. For example, you can specify whether or not you want to be put on a respirator if you are be unable to breathe on your own.  Is it more important to you to die without prolonged pain and suffering, or to extend your life as much as possible to spend time with family and friends?  Do you want to be surrounded by loved ones at your death, or would you prefer they keep their distance, remembering you in happier, healthier times?  These are tough questions that deserve careful consideration. 

Discuss Your End-of-Life Plans

Discuss your end-of-life values with your family while you are of whole mind and body, rather than after a debilitation diminishes your ability to make critical life decisions.

Writing an ethical will is a good first step to start an open and honest conversation regarding your end-of-life care wishes.  An ethical will, often in the form or a letter, defines your values and beliefs and helps you create a strong legacy for loved ones.  An ethical will helps you discover or reaffirm the values that are important to you.  Next, consider how to incorporate those values in your end-of-life care. Click here for more tips to help you write an ethical will or visit www.ethicalwill.com.

Gain Knowledge

Making decisions about the end of your life should be a life-affirming experience.  You are taking control of how you believe major decisions should be handled and ensuring peace of mind for yourself as well as your family.  Additional information can be found online at www.nhdd.org, www.lastacts.org, www.caringinfo.org/PlanningAhead, and www.nhpco.org, the official website of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Questions

If you have any questions about talking about your end-of-life care or advance directives, please call Katie McIntyre, community relations coordinator, at (515) 333-4258, (800) 806-9934, or at kmcintyre@hcicareservices.org.