End-Of-Life Decisions Not Easy, But Necessary

By: Katie Stukey Email
By: Katie Stukey Email
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It's National Health Care Decisions Day, a time to consider the issues we've maybe been putting off or avoiding altogether.

They come down to simple pieces of paperwork, a living will and a power of attorney for health care. Hospitals say many people put these off, unaware they're free and do not require an attorney to draft, only witnesses and a notary.

When the time comes emotions run high, stress often goes into overdrive and tensions commonly spark among family members as everyone has an opinion of how care should go.

Methodist and Alegent are asking us to seriously consider end-of-life decisions. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, a good majority of us would prefer to spend our last days at home, yet that same percentage actually face their last days in a hospital or some other long-term care facility. Seeing such a stark difference between what we want and the reality drives home the importance of talking with family now.

"I think there's still some challenges out there in terms of us as a society as far as how we're doing,” says Linda Rajcevich, Methodist Hospital's director of volunteer services and pastoral care. “I think our goal and part of why we're highlighting this day at Methodist Hospital is that so people are aware of what an advanced directive is."

They are written statements explaining your health care wishes in the case you can't communicate those on your own anymore. Even if your end-of-life care is something you're personally not too worried about, there's still good reason to tackle the issue now.

If tragedy strikes, that leaves it up to each individual family member to guess what you might want. "That is some of the things our health care providers grapple with is that we have perhaps two children, two siblings who have very different pictures of what their mother would want,” said Rajcevich.

"A lot of people too, maybe elderly people, are relieved that their kids are saying, mom, dad, have you thought about what you want," says Kathy Gast with Methodist’s Home Health & Hospice. “What are your wishes and what don't you want? Let's talk about it and get it down on paper."

Doctors at Alegent Creighton University Medical Center are hosting a web chat to give information about making end-of-life decisions. It will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday and you can access the chat at alegentcreighton.com/online-health-chats.

Methodist is offering free assistance between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Click here for more information.

There's also a web resource called The Conversation Project that gives you good talking points and different health concerns to consider with your family.

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