FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2008

CONTACT: M. “Peggy” Salisbury 908-771-5730;
Norma T. Sheld 908-771-5815

 

Make life easier for your loved ones… complete advance healthcare planning documents

April 15th is an “infamous” day; everyone has their eyes on that spot on the calendar as they dig thru receipts and pour over work sheets to prepare their tax returns, but are they ready for April 16th; have they filled out advance healthcare planning documents?

RUNNELLS Specialized Hospital of Union County would like to remind everyone that April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), the time to fill out Advance Directive documents.

What is an advance directive? There are two primary forms. The “healthcare power of attorney” (or “proxy” or “agent” or “surrogate”) documents the person you select to be your voice for your healthcare decisions if you can’t tell your wishes. A “living will” conveys what kinds of medical treatments you choose to receive or not receive at the end of life. There are some forms which are a combination of the two.

Despite recent gains in public awareness of the need for advance care planning, most Americans have not exercised the right to make decisions about their healthcare should the time come when they cannot speak for themselves.

National Healthcare Decisions Day will help us to understand that making future healthcare decisions includes more than deciding what care we would or would not want; it means expressing preferences, clarifying values, identifying care preferences and choosing an agent to convey healthcare decisions if we can’t speak for ourselves. The National Healthcare Decisions Day initiative is a shared effort of national, state and community organizations committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in this country have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions. Some of the 72 participating national organizations include: AARP and the American Medical Association.

It’s time to realize that what we fail to plan today will not necessarily be acted on by those that we want to act on our behalf when we can not. If we are unconscious and a spouse or adult child is left to tell the doctor what we want done…i.e. take all possible means to keep us alive…or if quality of life is impossible don’t resuscitate; we can’t speak if we didn’t put it in writing.

Our loved ones may not know our wishes if we haven’t put them in writing and discussed them,” said Union County Freeholder Chester Holmes, the liaison to RUNNELLS SpecializedHospital. “In the stress of the moment, even if we told them in advance what we want done and not done, they may not remember. An advance directive document allows you to give instructions to your health care providers and your family as to what you want done or not done when you can’t communicate. Think about what aspects of living are the most important to you, talk to your loved ones about your wishes and your values, and complete an advance directive.”

Do you think that you’re too young to need an advance directive? Remember Terri Schiavo? In her 20’s she was diagnosed with persistent vegetative state. She was institutionalized for 15 years while loved ones voiced different opinions about what her wishes would be on what would and would not be done for her. Do you thank that was an isolated case? If you recall the 1970’s, remember Karen Ann Quinlan. At 21, she too lapsed into a persistent vegetative state. After months on a ventilator without improvement her parents requested the hospital discontinue active care and allow her to die. The hospital refused, and legal battles began. These cases show making these choices is vital, even for those in their 20’s.

Accidents and illnesses can rob you of your voice when you need it the most. Let your voice be heard…fill one out soon. Studies indicate that only a small percentage of people (25% or less) have completed advance directives and many who may be interested in executing one may be confused about the process or don’t know where to go for help.

On April 16th join Americans across the country; talk to others about your future healthcare decisions and complete an advance directive. You can get copies of the form by downloading it from www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org.