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April 16 has been designated as National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD). The initiative is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations, committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity have the information and opportunity to properly communicate and document their healthcare decisions. 

Unfortunately, only about 25 percent of Americans have documented their future healthcare wishes in the form of an advance directive, a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding future medical treatment—often including a living will—to ensure that those wishes would be carried out if he or she were unable to communicate them to a medical professional in the future.

Not sure when to start your own advance directive? Trying to convince your aging parents to put their healthcare decisions in writing? The Delaware Palliative team, a program of Delaware Hospice, provides three reasons why documenting future healthcare wishes should be at the top of your to-do list:

1. The right time to make your wishes known is while you are still in good health.

Even in the best of circumstances, making such critical healthcare decisions can be difficult. But it is unwise to rely on others to make decisions on your behalf in the case of future medical emergencies. Everyone has the right and ability to make his or her wishes known. By informing your healthcare providers and loved ones of your wishes in advance, you’ll ensure that the right decisions would be made during what-if scenarios.

2. Advance directives will name an “agent” to speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself.

Depending on the state in which you live, your spouse or next of kin may not be able to automatically make medical decisions for you in an emergency situation. Sudden illness or accidents can happen to anyone at any time, so appointing a healthcare agent now is important.

3. Advance directives can prevent future family conflict.

If you put off documenting your healthcare wishes through an advance directive, you risk putting your family members through additional conflict, stress and confusion in the event that you are in a vulnerable position.

The Delaware Palliative team, a program of Delaware Hospice, expertly guides people through the process of advanced healthcare planning. The Delaware Palliative team can provide assistance to you, your loved one(s) or your healthcare provider(s). Contact the Delaware Palliative team by calling 1-800-838-9800, or by visiting www.delawarepalliative.org. You can also find the team on Facebook.

In recognition of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Delaware Hospice urges you to have those important conversations. Don’t wait for the “right time” to talk about advance directives with your family. Visit www.delawarehospice.org to find helpful information including advance directive forms, planning resources and tools.

Delaware Hospice locations:

New Castle County
16 Polly Drummond Shopping Center (Intersection of Polly Drummond Hill Road and New Linden Hill Road); second floor
Newark, Del., 19711
(302) 478-5707

Kent County
911 South DuPont Hwy.
Dover, Del., 19901
(302) 678-4444

Sussex County
100 Patriots Way
Milford, Del., 19963
(302) 856-7717

1786 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Suite 200 A
Glen Mills, Pa., 19342
(484) 259-0017