For Immediate Release:
April 12, 2012
Take Steps to Make Your Healthcare Wishes Known
(Alexandria, Va) – A study released this week by The Dartmouth Institute found that many physicians feel compelled to treat terminal cancer with aggressive care and, perhaps more disturbing, that sixty percent of cancer patients die in the hospital. Given that the majority of Americans would prefer to be at home at the end of life this raises concerns that Americans may be getting more invasive care at life’s end than is desired, resulting in diminished quality of life.
As National Healthcare Decisions Day approaches (Monday, April 16), the National Hospice Foundation stresses the importance of patients and families talking frankly about the care they would or would not want if ever faced with a serious medical condition or life-limiting illness.
NHF, along with other national, state, and community organizations, is raising awareness of the importance of advance healthcare decision making. This includes completing an advance directive (also known as a living will) and appointing a healthcare power of attorney (someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself). However, equally important are the conversations with family and loved ones about healthcare preferences and choices.
“On a daily basis, hospice and palliative care providers witness families who have benefited from talking about their loved one’s wishes at life’s end and also see how challenging it can be when those conversations never happened,” said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. “For those who have taken the time to have thoughtful conversations – often long before a serious illness might be an issue – there can be much reassurance and comfort in knowing what is important to a loved one.”
Thinking about what would be important to you in a medical crisis and making your wishes known to loved ones is what National Healthcare Decisions Day is all about – regardless of age or health status.
“You should not assume that your doctor or even your close family members know what your healthcare priorities are. Some people facing a life-limiting illness would want to avail themselves of all possible treatments while others would choose to focus on quality of life, seeking hospice and palliative care services,” Schumacher added.
Recent news about the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely initiative has brought attention to the subject of medical tests, procedures, and drugs that are often overused without benefit to patients. The Choosing Wisely initiative serves as an important reminder to the public about the need to be engaged with physicians surrounding one’s own medical care.
National Healthcare Decisions Day emphasizes the importance of advance care decision making can play. Going through the process of advance care planning helps people prepare to be their own best advocate regarding healthcare decisions.
“As a result of National Healthcare Decisions Day, many more people in our community can be expected to have thoughtful conversations about their healthcare decisions and complete reliable advance directives to make their wishes known,” said Nathan A. Kottkamp, NHDD founder and chair.
For more information about National Healthcare Decision Day, please visit www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org.
NHF’s Caring Connections is a trusted source of information and tools regarding advance care planning and talking with physicians and loved ones; state-specific advance directive forms are also available for download free of charge. Visit www.CaringInfo.org.
NHF Vice President, Communications