Groups Urge End-Of-Life Conversations This National Healthcare Decisions Day

Lily Bohlke – Commonwealth News Service

Senior man visiting his sick wife at hospital ward, support and help. health, medicine concept

ROCKPORT, Mass. – On National Healthcare Decisions Day, advocates are urging folks to make a formal plan for the end-of-life medical care they want.

Recent surveys show nearly 60% of 50- to 80-year-olds have had conversations with partners, family or friends about what they do or do not want at the end of their life. But not quite half of respondents have an advance directive – a legal document for spelling out their plan.

End-of-life options advocate Chuck Francis lives in Rockport and is in his 80s. He said it astounds him how many people worry about death but avoid talking about it.

“If you have a plan that you think you’d like to follow for your own death – it’s your plan, not the kids’,” said Francis. “And it takes the burden off them.”

Some people might want to go into hospice, while others would want the hospital to exhaust all
life-saving measures.

Francis said in addition to planning for medical care, it’s also important to have conversations about what happens with finances and estate planning.

One in five Americans
say they weren’t prepared to make critical end-of-life decisions when a family member got very sick or even died during the pandemic.

Francis said it’s absolutely essential that people talk about death and what it means for them – even if the conversation is difficult or emotional. He said he’s talked about it with his own children.

“The kids don’t want to hear much about it because they have emotions and they worry about what’s going to happen to you,” said Francis. “But ultimately, it has to be talked about, and I do force that issue with my family.”

A pair of videos in English and Spanish from the group Compassion & Choices echoes the importance of these conversations – and the group has also developed an online toolkit in both languages that helps people write down an advance directive, name someone as a health-care proxy or delegate power of attorney.