We all tell at least one story, and usually many more, that describes major life events, reflects who we are, and reveals what’s important to us. Typically, we share these with family and friends – sometimes over and over again, as they may remind us!
Yet most of us leave out a key element of our own narrative — how we hope our story will end.
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day – an occasion to encourage you to start the conversation that can affect how you spend your final days. It begins by learning how to share your values and preferences for advanced illness and end-of-life care. And it ends with a guide for family members, loved ones and caregivers that illustrates what you want, and how to follow your wishes.
You don’t have to be old or sick to start the conversation. In fact, the best time to talk about your preferences is before the need arises.
Having the conversation about end-of-life care
To help you get started, Capital Caring offers some valuable resources available on our website (https://www.capitalcaring.org/campaigns/advance-directives/).
The resources cover how to think about your values and preferences, how to discuss them with others and how to complete an advance care directive, a legal guide to implement your wishes.
A majority of people – according to research – strongly believe this is an issue they should deal with. However, the gap between thought and deed is wide:
- 90% of Americans say that talking about their end-of-life care wishes is important, yet only 27% of people are actually having these conversations;
- 60% say it is extremely important not to burden their family with such decisions, yet 56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes;
- 82% say it’s important to put their wishes in writing, but only 23% have actually done it.
While these are not easy discussions, having the conversation and committing your preferences to paper can make the situation easier for yourself, your family and caregivers when the time comes.
Resources you’ll need to document your care preferences
An advance directive can also comfort loved ones dealing with stress, grief and depression by knowing that they honored your last requests.
Capital Caring provides the resources you’ll need to document your care preferences, including “Five Wishes” – the country’s most popular living will – which meets the legal requirements for 42 states including Virginia and Maryland. If you live in Washington D.C., you’ll need to use this form. You can also request a printed version of the Five Wishes document.
Dr. Christopher Pile talks about the importance of Advance Care Planning
Tools and resources for our community
Our Capital Caring team will also be out in the community in April talking about the importance of advance care planning, advance directives, end-of-life care and what you can do to make the transitions easier and more comfortable for everyone involved—patients, family members, caregivers and medical professionals. We’ll be visiting assisted living centers/senior centers, health facilities, employers, and faith communities. If you or your organization would like to learn more – either where to attend a talk or to arrange a presentation, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We know these are challenging issues, but day in and day out, Capital Caring is committed to helping you tell and end your story in just the way you want, wherever you are in your healthcare journey.