Your Decisions Matter

From posting remembrances on Facebook to celebrating the legacies of family members at creative memorial services, today’s seniors are beginning to transform the way death is viewed and to accept it as a natural and normal part of the life cycle.

Barriers still exist, however, when it comes to having family conversations and documenting personal health care choices and preferences. According to a survey taken by the Conversation Project, a national program dedicated to helping people talk about end-of-life care wishes, 82 percent agreed putting their wishes in writing is important. Yet only 23 percent had done so.

Advance care planning – which in Ohio includes completion of Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will forms – empowers people to have a voice by communicating their preferences. Making these choices while still healthy and then sharing the written plan with trusted loved ones and doctors is the best way to make sure these choices are honored if a person becomes incapacitated or unable to speak for themselves. Just as importantly, it saves families from the agonizing role of guessing what would be wanted during a medical crisis.

One of the key initiatives Hospice of the Western Reserve is pursuing in partnership with other health care organizations in our region is starting a community conversation about the importance of communicating health care choices. The goal is to break down the barriers of fear and confusion that sometimes prevent families from talking about this subject. Working together, we hope to start to start a community dialogue, demystify the process and educate families about the many free and readily available resources to help.

Hospice of the Western Reserve offers a free booklet called “Courage in Conversation,” for example, that helps families begin this important conversation with their loved ones. It includes tips, worksheets and all the legal forms required by the State of Ohio. Free copies of the booklet can be downloaded at www.hospicewr.org/decisions.

Good planning for health care decisions is really all about communicating values, priorities and quality of life choices. It’s about having a plan in place to provide the best possible outcome for both the individual and his or her family. It does not have to be a scary process. It can and should be a normal part of life planning.

Guest Blogger: Bill Finn, President and CEO, Hospice of the Western Reserve