Discussing serious health-related issues among loved ones, such as what we want to happen if our health declines quickly, can be quite challenging and emotional.

However, if family members receive clear and specific instructions, they will have the comfort and confidence to know that they’re successfully honoring their loved one’s end-of-life wishes. National Healthcare Decisions Day, which is observed in April, can be used as a mechanism to begin those tough conversations, according to Leslie Schaeffer, Support Services Manager with Bethesda Hospice Care in St. Louis.

“Death and dying are things that for generations we have tried to deny,” Leslie said. “Since National Healthcare Decision Day was created, it has helped to start those important conversations and has shed light on available resources.”

A healthcare decision starter kit with tools and tips can help you start the conversation with your loved ones during Healthcare Decision Day. Free resources, like The Conversation Project, are dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.

People tend to think of end-of-life planning as something that only seniors should worry about. However, like preparing a will, accidents and disease can happen at any time. Tragedy can strike someone who is 25 just as easily as it can strike someone who is 75. Being prepared will benefit you and your loved ones.

Tips for End-of-Life Planning

  • In addition to talking to loved ones, talk to your doctors to make sure they know your wishes and will honor them.
  • Research specific conditions and medical procedures and decide, individually, what you’d like loved ones to do if they occur. How far should doctors go to save your life? What is your definition of an acceptable quality of life?
  • Choose only one agent to carry out your wishes. If you have four children and you name each of them an agent, they may disagree when an emergency happens, defeating the purpose of planning ahead. You may want to consider an agent who lives nearby and who can be available on short notice if something sudden happens.
  • Even if you’ve already had the end-of-life decision conversation with your family, you should reassess your decisions every year and see if circumstances have caused you to reconsider any of your choices.

If you’re ready to start the conversation and are looking for help, Bethesda offers free services that include completing advanced healthcare directives and even notary services.

For more information on free end-of-life decision planning assistance, contact Bethesda’s Bereavement Coordinators at 314-373-7025.