National Healthcare Decision Day
Why you need to have those important conversations with your loved ones
Former First Lady Barbara Bush died April 17 at the age of 92. In a statement just a day before her death, Mrs. Bush's office said that after a "recent series of hospitalizations," she had decided against seeking additional medical help and would instead focus on "comfort care." Mrs. Bush, 92, had been hospitalized numerous times over the past year, for treatment of COPD and congestive heart failure.
News of Mrs. Bush's choice of comfort care came on National Healthcare Decision Day, April 16, a day designed to educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.
We talk about it even as somewhat of a gift to be able to have conversations and document discussions.
Knowing how a loved one would want to live out their final days can be a difficult conversation for a family to have, but it's also one of the most important.
"They may be tough conversations but if we think about how much more difficult they would be to have these conversations in an intensive care unit or when mom or dad or whoever it may be is sick and on medication or they're not able to speak maybe they are on a ventilator and they're not able to have conversations. So that's the importance of National Healthcare Decision Day is getting this message out there that it's important to have these conversations now, while we're healthy, while were able to speak for ourselves," said Karen Renken, OSF HealthCare Advanced Care Planning Program Coordinator.
Karen Renken is the Advanced Care Planning Program Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, a 13-hospital system based in Peoria, IL. She works with care providers and others to work with them on how best to have end-of-life planning discussions. She understands Mrs. Bush's decision to focus on comfort care.
"Comfort care to me would be making those decisions that I don't want to be going back-and-forth to the hospital, I may not want to be on a respirator, have CPR, that would even include dialysis treatments as well. But those are all part of the things that we talk about when we do a discussion record. We discuss palliative care and hospice care, if that is something that the patient would want when that time comes, so that family members know what decisions to make for their family member if you're not able again to speak for themselves."
Among the key points Renken hopes everyone discusses with their loved ones: designate a decision-maker; make sure you have a Healthcare Power of Attorney in place; and, let your decisions be known.
"We talk about it even as somewhat of a gift to be able to have conversations and document discussions. Choose a power of attorney for healthcare so, again, that stress and burden isn’t on family members when someone's not able to speak for themselves. It's like ‘well, I'm the power of attorney for healthcare but we never had a conversation, I really don't know what mom or dad would want.’"
Learn more about advance care planning and resources available to help with those important conversations here.