National Healthcare Decisions Day is About Taking Control of Life

Saturday, April 16, is the annual National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), which aims to help people across the United States understand the value of advance healthcare planning.

A Conversation Project national survey in 2013 found that 90 percent of all Americans believe talking to their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27 percent have had such a conversation.

Sixty percent of people believe making sure their family is not burdened by tough end-of-life decisions is important but well over half have not spoken to their loved ones about their own end-of-life preferences, according to a 2012 survey by the California HealthCare Foundation.

That same survey found that 80 percent of people say they would talk to their doctor about end-of-life treatment if they were seriously ill, but a mere eight percent have had that discussion.

Finally, while 82 percent believe it is important to put their end-of-life priorities in writing, only 23 percent have done so.

Clearly, advance care planning, while more critical than ever, is badly lagging in the United States. To correct that problem, National Healthcare Decisions Day (and week) exists to prompt Americans to discuss this previously-taboo subject frankly and openly with their loved ones.

NHDD, an initiative of The Conversation Project, exists as a 50-state annual initiative to provide clear, concise, and consistent information on healthcare decision-making to both the public and providers/facilities through the widespread availability and dissemination of simple, free, and uniform tools (not just forms) to guide the process. NHDD entails 50 independent, but coordinated, state and local events (necessitated by the difference in state laws and dynamics) supported by a national media and public education campaign.

A key goal of NHDD is to demystify health care decision-making and make the topic of advance care planning inescapable. On NHDD, no one in the U.S. should be able to open a paper, watch TV, view the internet, see a physician or lawyer, or go to a healthcare facility without being confronted with the topic of advance care planning. Among other things, NHDD helps people understand that advance healthcare decision-making includes much more than living wills; it is a process that should focus first on conversation and choosing an agent.

“The need to share wishes regarding decision-makers and end-of-life issues certainly isn’t new, but the COVID-19 crisis puts these considerations into bright focus,” says Chair of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Nathan Kottkamp.  “Furthermore, as the emotional and mental health effects of the crisis accumulate, we also see the benefits of advance care planning for mental health and other non-end-of-life issues.”

We encourage you to download, read, and share the NHDD PREPARE pamphlets. They show the outline of the PREPARE 5 steps and some suggested language people can use.

GO HERE to learn more about advanced care planning.

GO HERE for ideas on how to get the advance care conversation started and be sure to use the hashtag #NHDD on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word.