April 9, 2024

National Healthcare Decisions Day: A Time to Talk about Your Healthcare Wishes

April 9, 2024

The month of April is most known for tax deadlines, spring holidays and the NCAA Final Four tournaments. Falling squarely in the middle of the month – on April 16 – is an observance that may not get as much attention: National Healthcare Decisions Day.

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is an initiative to encourage people to express their wishes about their health care choices.

According to theconversationproject.org, the goal of NHDD is to demystify healthcare decision-making and make the topic of advance care planning unavoidable.

“Advance care planning involves discussing and preparing for future decisions about your medical care,” said Dr. Rebecca Starr, a Cooley Dickinson geriatrician and Medical Director of the Pioneer Valley Memory Care Initiative.

Yet the topic can be scary for people.

“It’s common for people to avoid having these types of conversations; it’s the unknown,” Starr noted. “The research shows that you are more likely to get the care you want if you have conversations about your medical treatment with your family and friends and put a necessary plan in place before anything serious happens.”

In a National Institute on Aging study, people guessed nearly one out of three end of life decisions for their loved one incorrectly. “You may assume your loved ones know what you would want, but that may not always be true,” added Starr.

In addition, Starr said everyone over the age of 18 should have a health care proxy. “It’s important for all adults, not just older adults.” According to the Massachusetts Medical Society, a health care proxy is a simple document, legally valid in Massachusetts, which allows you to name someone, an agent, to make health care decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to make or communicate those decisions.” Learn more about health care proxy forms here.

In addition to raising awareness about important health care conversations, NHDD can be an opportunity to discuss other advance care planning forms and orders with a doctor, such as deciding on a health care proxy and completing a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form. POLST forms provide guidance about one’s medical care that health care professionals can act on immediately in an emergency.

Added Starr, “the most important thing to remember is to just start to have the conversation about your health care wishes so you are prepared if your health changes.”

About Healthcare Decisions Day

NHDD was founded in 2008 by Nathan Kottkamp, a Virginia-based health care lawyer, to provide clear, concise, and consistent information on healthcare decision-making to both the public and providers/facilities through the widespread availability and dissemination of simple, free, and uniform tools (not just forms) to guide the process.

Learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day and download free educational materials here.