Today is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) a day devoted to recognizing the importance of expressing your choices about your health care through advance directives, by creating a living will and designating a medical power of attorney. Our latest Prepared Patient article Advance Directives: Caring for You & Your Family also shares the story of Heather Rubesch's experience of being called upon to make decisions for her mother, Linda, when Linda was critically ill. Both the NHDD website and our article offer resources to help you consider your options, define your wishes and share them with your loved ones and health care providers. And Health Dialog, a disease management company, also is offering access to conversations with patients and families discussing their decisions in a video, Looking Ahead: Choices for Medical Care When You're Seriously Ill.
What a challenge it is for us to make these plans, to have these talks' to think about and then to put in writing your ideas about some of the most difficult health care decisions that you 'well, really your family and physicians, may ever need to make on your behalf. How hard it is to actively plan for the end of life hoping that that day is far, far, away---or that somehow no decisions or choices may be needed.
Years ago, I came across and spent several absorbing days reading one of the most profound and disquieting books I have ever read, The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. It was disquieting but oddly comforting too. Reading it made me see that I am part of a long line of humans who have struggled with our knowledge of mortality and that we often act in strange but understandable ways to avoid thinking about death.
Yet, thinking about death and making plans for the health care you want to receive when you may not be able to express your wishes can also be liberating. I felt a sense of accomplishment and relief when I created my advance directives with my husband that was a little similar to my feeling yesterday when after weeks of' gathering receipts and W-2's, filling in the forms and then dropping our tax returns in the mailbox. Both are unwelcome but necessary adult rites of passage. In many ways, making plans for the end of our lives is just one more thing to check off an annual to do list. By doing so, we ease the pain and confusion our loved ones may experience if they find themselves needing to make difficult decisions about our care. We have a chance now to consider what we want and advise them of our wishes. This may be the biggest and most timely refund they could ever receive.