June 14, 2024

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April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

4 min read

Talking about the end of your life is not comfortable.

But it’s a conversation worth having to make sure your loved ones or health professionals know what you want to happen to you when you aren’t able to speak for yourself.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day to make, discuss and document future healthcare wishes and decisions in your advance care planning, also known as advance directives. Meritus Health offers free guidance and documents to help with this planning, be it for yourself or someone in your care.

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a legal document thatprovides instructions for end-of-life care and spells out whether life-sustaining treatment should be withdrawn or withheld when a person is dying or permanently unconscious.

Susan Lyons, nurse practitioner and supervisor of supportive and palliative care at Meritus Medical Center, views advance directives as “if-then” documents.

Susan Lyons, nurse practitioner and supervisor of supportive and palliative care at Meritus Medical Center

“If I’m in a terminal condition and cannot speak for myself, then these are the medical treatments I do or do not desire,” Lyons explained. She said these legal documents are important and often overlooked. All adults should consider documenting their wishes, regardless of health or age.

When should I start the conversation about advance directives?

Start the conversation now, she said. The best time to complete an advance directive is when you’re healthy and the discussion is neutral or removed from an illness or devastating medical condition. An appropriate time might be when a family member or friend has experienced a life-changing or life-ending event.

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