Advance care planning: 5 things to do now to protect your wishes later

Healthcare Decisions Day on Sunday, April 16, helps you plan ahead for end-of-life care

The best time to complete a power of attorney for health care form is long before you will need one. (Getty photo by Peter Dazeley)

Sometimes, the best gift is a conversation. 

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day set aside to let your loved ones and doctors know your wishes regarding end-of-life care.

Research shows one-third of health care agents experience long-lasting negative feelings like stress or guilt because they do not know their loved one’s wishes, according to a 2011 study in Annals of Internal Medicine. You can reduce this burden on your loved ones through advance care planning.

That’s why you should talk about end-of-life plans with your loved ones now. It will end up being the best gift you could give them.

As a registered nurse and care navigator at HopeHealth, I talk to families every day about what matters most to them in their care. Here are the five things you want to make sure you think about on Healthcare Decisions Day:

  1. Fill out advanced directives. This document spells out the medical treatments you would and would not want used to keep you alive, along with other preferences like organ donation. And it’s free: Start with your library, your state’s department of health, or
  2. Choose a durable power of attorney for health care. This person should have a copy of your advanced directives, and the strength to stand up for your wishes, even if doctors and family members disagree. I phrase this as, “Your healthcare proxy should have moxy.”
  3. Discuss services and estate plans. Would you rather be cremated or buried? What kind of funeral arrangements do you want? Who will take care of your pets? We plan for a birth. We should also plan for a death. Have these conversations now, while everyone’s healthy.
  4. Learn about hospice and palliative care. Arm yourself with knowledge. We’re happy to talk to you over the phone or come out in person for a free visit.
  5. Share your ideal end-of-life scenario. Where do you want to be? Who do you want to say goodbye to? How do you want to be remembered? Your family, your doctor and your loved ones should know specifically what you want.

By making these decisions now, you’ll give yourself the ending you want for your life. And you’ll give your loved ones peace of mind that they’re doing what’s best for you. There’s perhaps no greater gift.

When the times comes, all the stress and anxiety of making those decisions will be lifted from your loved ones. They will just be able to be there to love you.



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Rhonda Taddei RN, BSN, CHPN
Rhonda Taddei RN, BSN, CHPN

Rhonda Taddei RN, BSN, CHPN, has provided patient care for more than 40 years. She started her career in emergency nursing, transitioning to hospice care for the last twelve years. Taddei focuses on giving patients and families information and support at end of life. Her passion lies in helping patients make informed decisions about the right care at the right time. For more information about advanced directives and end-of-life planning, you can visit