Special to Fayette Newspapers
Dr. Neha Shah, a palliative care physician at Piedmont Fayette Hospital, meets with a lot of patients and their families during difficult times. Perhaps they are facing a challenging diagnosis, extended hospital stays, decisions about treatments or even approaching the end of one’s life. At a time when emotions are running high and illness can color the conversations, families are forced to face these tough questions and find an answer without knowing what quality of life means to their loved ones. Dr. Shah recommends that everyone have these difficult conversations at a time when everyone is feeling healthy. Although National Healthcare Decisions Day is Monday, April 16, people can sit down and have these discussions with their loved ones at any time.
“There is a perception that having conversations around these topics is morbid or dark, but time after time, I meet people who wish they had talked about these things sooner,” said Dr. Shah. “Making decisions about your care, and the roles you would want your family to play in different situations, shows a tremendous amount of forethought and compassion for your loved ones.”
An easy way to facilitate these much needed conversations is by completing an advanced care directive. This document is free to fill out, does not need a lawyer or notary, and can be changed at any time to reflect someone’s wishes. You do not need to be sick or aging to have an advance directive. Anyone over the age of 18, who is of sound mind and body, should create an advance directive. In addition to designating someone to make decisions in the event that someone cannot make decisions for themselves, the advance directive can also list the person’s preferences for medical care in the event the unexpected or something catastrophic happens.
Catastrophic or unexpected medical concerns can happen at anytime. If someone cannot make decisions for themselves, it falls to their legal next of kin – their legal spouse, children and even adult parents. If you want to ensure a certain person is your medical decision maker, then you can do so easily in the advanced care directive.
“At the very least, you should make that decision and put it in writing even if you don’t complete anything else,” said Dr. Shah.
Ultimately, the goal of National Healthcare Decisions Day, and creating an advance directive, is that people express their wishes so that providers and facilities can respect those wishes and families also know how to navigate any decisions they may have to make.
“We have amazing technology, but the one thing we don’t have yet is mind-reading technolog,” said Dr. Shah. “Until that happens, everyone needs an advance care directive.”
Filling out the necessary documents for an advanced directive is a simple process and the spiritual care services team at Piedmont Fayette can provide you with what you need to get started, and assist you along the way. For more information, visit piedmont.org/spiritual-services.