This is one New Year’s resolution you must make and keep, without delay!
Everyone over the age of 18 should plan ahead for their medical care, and consider who will speak for them if they can not speak for themselves.
It’s not enough to have a signed Health Care Proxy form (in some states, this may be called a Power of Attorney for Health Care); many people sign the forms then misplace them, or never have the important conversations with loved ones that give guidance about values and preferences.
“Sharing Your Wishes” is a comprehensive approach that can walk you through four steps that will ensure that your loved ones understand your health care choices.
The steps in this approach include:
1. Think about what is important to you and how you want to receive care
2. Select a person to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself
3. Talk about your health care wishes
4. Put your choices in writing
The form itself is easy to complete and doesn’t require a notary or lawyer. It can be difficult to talk about these issues, though, especially if you or a loved one is dealing with a chronic or serious illness.
The Sharing Your Wishes website has easy-to-use materials and videos that fully explain each step and support you and your loved ones in having these important conversations.
Many counties in Central and Western New York have local Sharing Your Wishes Coalitions where more materials and support can be found; their names and phone numbers are listed on the website.
If you are outside the area, contact your local Bar Association or Area Agency on Aging for more information.
Please visit the Sharing Your Wishes website at www.sharingyourwishes.org for more information about this important topic today. Make sure you and all the adults in your life have appointed a Health Care Agent, and have started to have these important conversations with your loved ones and with your health care providers.
P.S. Don’t hesitate to consult with a counselor if you need more support; dealing with chronic or terminal illness is very stressful and you don’t have to deal with it alone.
Peace and Wellness to you and yours in the New Year!
Lisa Kendall is a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Ithaca, New York. She is a trainer for the Tompkins County Sharing Your Wishes Coalition.
Sharing Your Wishes is sponsored by the Community Health Foundation of Western & Central New York.