Put your end of life choices in writing

Photo: Davide Ragusa/Unsplash

Public News Service - On National Healthcare Decisions Day, advocates for end-of-life options are urging people to make a formal plan for the health care they want.

One in five Americans say they weren't prepared to make critical end-of-life decisions when a family member got very sick or even died during the pandemic.

Amy Sherman, Midwest regional campaign and outreach manager with Compassion & Choices, said that making a plan is a way to reduce stress for loved ones during a challenging time, in addition to ensuring that patients have a say in how they die and what kind of health care they do or do not want.

"It's also a way to avoid conflict in your family or minimize conflict in your family," said Sherman. "Because often in these very tense situations, we have seen that family members may have different views around care."

Recent surveys show 60% of 50- to 80-year-olds have had conversations with partners, family or friends about end-of-life medical care. And just under half have an advance directive - a legal document that can help make sure a patient's end-of-life decisions are met.

Sherman said even though talking about end-of-life issues can be difficult, and putting documents in place can seem daunting, it's worth it to take the time.

"Don't wait until you're in the car on your way to the hospital to have this conversation," said Sherman. "Make sure to have the conversation in advance."

A pair of videos in English and Spanish from the group Compassion & Choices echo the importance of preparation - and the group also has developed an online toolkit in both languages that helps people write down an advance directive, name someone as a health-care proxy or delegate power of attorney.