While making health care decisions can be difficult in the best of circumstances, making decisions for others is much more complicated. Each of us has the ability to guide our loved ones and physicians by spelling out exactly what we want. An advance directive gives you the ability to document the type of health care you do and do not want, and to name an “agent” to speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself. Unfortunately, unexpected health events or tragedies that put one’s life on hold can occur at any time.
National Healthcare Decision Day is Wednesday, April 16. With the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990, Congress affirmed the right of every citizen to set forth his or her future health care wishes in writing with an advance directive.
However, estimates indicate that only about 25 percent of Americans have prepared such a document. Because advance directives are available at no charge and can be completed without the help of an attorney, this figure is surprisingly low.
Please visit www.hph-hospice.org and download an advance directive from our home page. You can also call us at (727) 863-7971(727) 863-7971 to request one by mail at no charge or set up an appointment with a trained HPH staff member who will guide you through this process. Preparing an advance directive takes a little time and reflection, but the benefits of so doing are immeasurable.
In health care, your decisions do matter. However, others need to know your decisions in order to honor them. Please use April 16 to decide, discuss and document your wishes, whatever these may be.
An advance directive is a gift to yourself and those you love.
The writer is chief of medical services for HPH Hospice.
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