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Give the gift of peace of mind for National Health Care Decisions Day

By Staff | Apr 18, 2018

Samira K. Beckwith

Spring is filled with special occasions that provide opportunities for celebrating, sharing joy and making memories with our families and loved ones. To commemorate the significance of important events like birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and graduations during this season, we often spend hours deliberating over the perfect gift that symbolizes our love for those we hold dear.

Yet there is another important gift we can give our families. We can talk with them about our plans for our care when we are unable to make our own decisions.

Sadly, I’ve seen the consequences of not having the discussion ahead of time. Not sharing our thoughts and concerns, as well as our desires, can affect our loved ones. I’ve seen heartbroken families fall apart, with siblings arguing and spouses wracked with confusion and guilt. Sometimes, the emotional intensity of this situation can overtake a lifetime of great memories.

We devote our lives to making sure our loved ones feel cared for, in ways large and small. Please don’t leave these major decisions to them at a time when they need you most.

Should we become ill and unresponsive, it is essential that everyone is on the same page. Having our wishes in writing gives our loved ones a plan to follow, knowing it is what we intended. But while 62 percent of adults have talked about their end of life wishes, only 35 percent have actually put their wishes in writing, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Each April, Hope recognizes National Healthcare Decisions Day as an opportunity to encourage discussions about advance care planning. This year, rather than limiting these important conversations to one day, National Healthcare Decisions Day has been extended to a weeklong event from April 16-22.

Hope has been the local leader in facilitating this discussion and provides community education events throughout the year to help people plan for their future health care needs. We recommend reviewing Five Wishes – an easy-to-use guide that provides direction and guidance for our loved ones based on our own personal, emotional and spiritual needs. The form legally documents your desires for future medical care and provides information for family and physicians, such as: Who should make care decisions on your behalf if you are unable? What kind of medical treatment options do you want to receive, and which do you prefer not to receive? What do you want your loved ones to know about your choices?

It is also an opportunity to share smaller details. Do you want to be surrounded by family and friends, or do you want only your closest loved ones nearby? Which are your favorite hymns and flowers? Do you want friends to honor your passing by contributing to your favorite charity in your name?

Simply record the information and add your signature to the Five Wishes document, which is valid under the laws of most states. You’ll want to let someone you trust know that it has been completed and where it will be kept. You may also consider sharing your wishes with your clergy, doctor, attorney and other trusted advisors and care providers.

As a community service, Hope Healthcare offers the Five Wishes advance directive forms through our website at www.hopehcs.org/fivewishes and by calling 239-482-4673. After completing the form, let someone you trust know that it is completed and where it will be kept. You may also consider sharing your wishes with your clergy, doctor or other care providers.

Planning gives our loved ones peace of mind when they need it most. It is the ultimate gift.

Samira K. Beckwith is the president and chief executive officer of Hope Healthcare, a not-for-profit health care organization offering programs and services in Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties.