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National Health Care Decisions Day: Make wishes known

April 15, 2015
By SAMIRA K. BECKWITH , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A Fort Myers Beach couple recently invited their children over for a special dinner party. The occasion was not to celebrate a milestone birthday, or to commemorate an anniversary. It was to discuss a topic that is often difficult for many: choices to be made during life's final chapter.

Talking about issues related to end-of-life or care when someone has a serious illness is not the easiest thing to do. However, having the conversation ahead of time is one of the most valuable gifts that you can give to your loved ones.

During stressful times, many of us wisely choose to defer important decisions so we can gain a sense of perspective in the hope of clearer thinking. This strategy can be effective in many situations; however, in the case of decisions about medical care, the opportunity to defer decision-making is often not possible. Advance planning is an opportunity to facilitate an important discussion that can reduce stress during these life events.

Hope HealthCare Services is dedicated to providing everyone in our care with dignity, comfort and peace. This road can be a little less difficult to travel when you take a few moments to have this conversation.

To help you get started, we offer a document called Five Wishes which can help facilitate a conversation about personal and individual choices in critical situations. These discussions help everyone to better answer the question, "What should we do now?"

Five Wishes is easy to use and provides direction and guidance for our loved ones based on our own personal, emotional and spiritual needs. This advance directives guide is available to all who request a copy through Hope HealthCare Services and helps each of us think about these questions for our medical care:

- The person I want to make decisions for me when I cannot, including choices for care and services, interpreting instructions, consent to admission, and request or take away medical treatments

- The kind of medical treatment I want or do not want, including life-support treatment decisions

- How comfortable I want to be, including treatment of pain and nausea, bathing, massage, music, personal care and spiritual support

- How I want people to treat me, including visitors, personal interactions, sharing information about the illness with members of a congregation or other group, and photos at the bedside

- What I want my loved ones to know, including a request to respect your wishes, how you would like your loved ones to interact with each other, who to turn to for your final wishes and other important end-of-life decisions that are best made by you.

The couple shared with me that they were surprised by how easy and rewarding it was to discuss their choices using Five Wishes. Once they started talking about details with their children about the special photos and music they wanted to become part of their environment during their end-of-life care, they realized the importance of having the conversation while they are able to.

I encourage you to have this discussion with your loved ones. Then, simply record the information and add your signature to the Five Wishes document, which is valid under the laws of most states. You'll want to let someone you trust know that it's completed and where it will be kept. You may also consider sharing your wishes with your clergy, doctor or other care providers.

To commemorate National Health Care Decisions Day, download a copy of Five Wishes at: Or, feel free to request a copy by calling Hope at (239) 454-3100.

Samira K. Beckwith is president and chief executive officer of Hope HealthCare Services, a not-for-profit community-based agency offering programs and services in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.



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