Make your healthcare wishes known

Special to the JournalApril 14, 2017 

Most people like to feel like they’re in control of their lives. They like choosing a doctor, and when and where to receive care. But what happens when they can no longer make their choices known?

National Healthcare Decisions Day on Sunday provides an opportunity to talk with loved ones about end of life care. It ensures they control their own health care choices, even when they can no longer speak for themselves.

Once a loved one becomes seriously ill, it can be traumatic to ask, “Would he or she have wanted things this way?” Having the caring conversation ahead of time removes feelings of guilt or anxiety that come from realizing the topic has never been raised.

Start by including your primary care physician. Ask your doctor about your health and what options you should consider. Then make National Healthcare Decisions Day your conversation starter.

It doesn’t have to be awkward. Suggest the conversation a few days in advance to give your loved ones time to thoughtfully consider their wishes. Begin by expressing that your wish is to ensure their choices are honored. Reflecting on life well lived and laughter over good memories can be a great way to open the door.

Ask questions about your loved ones’ wishes for care for the rest of their lives, and keep conversations focused on the positive, allowing the person’s choices to be heard and validated.

When is the best time to start the conversation? Encourage loved ones to make their wishes known during the prime of life. At the time when someone is facing an illness or becomes unable to speak for themselves, it may be too late.

Caring conversations are a healthy gift to families. They provide every person a voice to communicate what is best for them, and to be at peace knowing they will receive the care they want throughout the rest of their lives.

As people near the end of life, they often wish for peace, and the knowledge they will be cared for. Caring conversations allow every person the gift of knowing that will happen. Make time to open this important dialogue with your physician and those you love. It may be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

Carol Quiring is CEO of Saint Luke’s Home Care and Hospice. Saint Luke’s offers a list of questions to start your conversation. Learn more at saintlukeskc.org/caringconversations.

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