Making Sure Your Healthcare Wishes are Known


Last updated 5/14/2015 at 7:22pm | View PDF

If you experienced a medical crisis and were unable to make your healthcare wishes known, who would speak for you?

National Healthcare Decisions Day, an initiative created to highlight the importance of healthcare decisions, is a collaborative effort between the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and other national, state and community organizations.

"Everyone, including those who are healthy and in the prime of their life, should think about and document their healthcare preferences before a crisis," said J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD, and NHPCO president and CEO. "National Healthcare Decisions Day is a day focused on educating the public about the importance of advance care planning."

In the survey "International Survey of Older Adults Finds Shortcomings in Access, Coordination, and Patient-Centered Care," the United States was rated the highest with regard to having had a conversation about advanced care planning. The survey concluded that 78% of Americans polled had discussed advance care planning and 67% had named a health care proxy.

"The higher percentage of Americans engaging in advance care planning discussions is promising," said Schumacher. "But we still have work to do to educate and bring awareness to this important issue."

Have a Conversation

Advance care planning starts with talking with loved ones, healthcare providers and friends. These types of discussions can be difficult for the person initiating the conversation and equally uncomfortable for the person or persons receiving the information.

"Having these conversations will prevent loved ones from having to guess what you would want if you are ever facing a healthcare or medical crisis," said Schumacher. "The conversation helps create an understanding of what healthcare preferences matter most to you."

Complete an Advance Directive

Advance directives allow you to document your end-of-life wishes in the event that you are terminally ill or critically injured, and unable to talk or communicate.

NHPCO's Caring Connections has free, state-specific advance directive forms and information on advance care planning that can be downloaded from Each state's advance directive is legally reviewed on an annual basis to meet each state's statutory requirements.

"Most people know they should "have the talk," but all too often life gets in the way," said Nathan Kottkamp, JD, NHDD chair and founder. "NHDD reminds us that we need to mark our calendars—no more excuses or procrastinating.”

For additional information about National Healthcare Decision Day and efforts throughout the country, visit


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