Guest Columnist

Make your health care wishes known

Ambulances are parked outside of the Johnson County Ambulance Service and Medical Examiner Facility in Iowa City on Thursday, July 13, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Ambulances are parked outside of the Johnson County Ambulance Service and Medical Examiner Facility in Iowa City on Thursday, July 13, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

This is National Health Care Decisions Week. Most of you have filed your taxes. Have you also talked to your family, friends and health care providers about your health care preferences? Have you completed an advance directive?

“It always seems too early, until it’s too late” is this year’s theme.

Have you known people who have had a sudden illness or injury and could not communicate? Or have you heard a friend say, “Mom had a serious illness, but we never discussed what she would want if she had complications from her treatments. I had to make decisions on her behalf. I wish we had talked.”

Without conversations, there is potential for confusion and conflict in a situation that already may be very stressful. A plan assists with guiding care and can help family and friends better focus on what is important to them at a challenging time.

Nationally, 25 percent to 35 percent of people have an advance directive. Among those 60 and older, that number rises to about half of older adults. However, if people have an advance directive, they may not have talked about their values, beliefs and health care preferences, or shared their plans with family, friends or their providers.

Fortunately, my wife, Louise, and I recently updated our wills, durable power of attorney, health care proxy and end-of-life directives and shared those with our four children. All now are fully aware of our wishes and who is “in charge” of our business and health care matters should we become incapacitated.

Encourage colleagues, friends and family to have conversations, complete legal advance directives and share their plans with their circle of support and health care providers.

If they would like assistance completing an advance directive, services are offered at no cost at four locations: Iowa City Hospice, University of Iowa Health Care, Mercy Iowa City and the Johnson County/Iowa City Senior Center. For more information, go to honoring yourwishes.org.

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Advance care planning is a gift to yourself and those who care about and care for you. It’s never too early, until it’s too late.

• Donald Letendre is dean and professor at the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy.

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