It Always Seems Too Early
Posted by Rachael Telleen
Advance care planning is something I'm passionate about. As an Advanced Care Planning Advocate for JourneyCare, I am very lucky that my job allows me to do something I believe in so strongly.
An important part of my work is to bring focus to National Healthcare Decisions Day, which is approaching on April 16. This nationwide initiative exists to inspire, educate and empower you, as well as your healthcare providers, about the importance of advance care planning.
This year’s theme is “It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late.” I have witnessed the truth of this slogan firsthand.
I have talked with people who have lasting guilt and anguish, wondering if they made the right decisions when deciding what to do when family members were on life support, or in other situations where they could not speak for themselves.
And I have watched families struggle when important conversations haven’t taken place; brothers and sisters unable to talk to one another because they don’t agree with a medical decision, instead of supporting each other during a crisis. If a mother or a father knew in advance that this would happen to their families, I’m certain they would have had these conversations.
It is our responsibility to provide guidance to our loved ones if a medical crisis happens and we can’t speak for ourselves. We can’t outline every possible outcome, but we can help our families understand what’s important to us. What gives our lives meaning? Providing this to our loved ones will help them make difficult decisions if they must.
The reality is we are all going to die one day. Like you, I hope it is many, many years from now. But it’s important to remember that completing an advance directive will not cause something to happen to us sooner, but it could help our families. I have had these conversations with my children, parents and siblings. My dad died four years ago and – because we had these important conversations in advance – we were able to support him in the decisions he made. He died in home hospice, the way he wanted to.
To mark National Healthcare Decisions Day, please have these conversations with your loved ones and write your own advance directives. To help with this, JourneyCare provides a tool called “Five Wishes” for residents in the 10 Illinois counties served by our agency. “Five Wishes” is an easy-to-use legal document that is valid in most states, and written in everyday language that lets adults plan how they want to be cared for in case they become seriously ill.
“Five Wishes” helps you express how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. It is unique because it speaks to a person's holistic needs: medical, personal, emotional and spiritual.