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Nat’l Healthcare Decisions Day: Are You Prepared?

Aired 4/16/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST:

Helen McNeal, Executive Director, Cal State University Institute of Palliative Care.

Transcript

Making end-of-life healthcare decisions for a loved one is never easy and sometimes it can tear a family apart. Today, on National Healthcare Decisions Day, families are urged to begin the conversation now so their loved ones can express their wishes and be part of the discussion.

"Having a plan in place, in writing, can extend the quality of life for those people living with chronic medical conditions as well as those who might be facing end of-life issues," said Helen McNeal, executive director at Cal State University Institute of Palliative Care.

Citing California studies on advanced care planning, McNeal said of the 38 million Californians, 82 percent say it's important to have their wishes for healthcare in writing, but only 20 percent have them.

Additional Resources

National Healthcare Decisions Day

Center to Advance Palliative Care

Choosing Wisely, promotes conversations between physicians and patients

Advanced Decision Making Tools

She said "anyone over the age of 18 should have some kind of document or at least had the conversation."

There are many challenges to getting people to talk about this type of planning. "Sometimes an aging parent simply doesn't want to talk about it because it's a depressing subject," said McNeal. Often times, adult children don't want to bring it up.

"I encourage people to talk about this early when it's not about end of life," said McNeal.

To start the conversation, she suggests talking about what gives you joy and quality of life and what would that mean to you if you couldn't articulate it.

"It's better to have these conversations now, before it's at a time of crisis," she said.

McNeal also suggests that people have this conversation with a doctor and give him or her a copy of your advanced care planning.

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