National Healthcare Decisions Day: Start with 5 simple questions

April 11, 2015 | by Fran Rizzi

advance healthcare directive

Don't make your health care team or loved ones guess what you want should you be unable to make a decision. On National Healthcare Decision Day, tell them -- by making an advance health care directive.

Health care decisions are tough. They're even tougher when you – or loved ones – have to make them without a plan or a conversation.

National Healthcare Decisions Day, on April 16,  is a nationwide initiative to demystify the health care decision-making process and encourage families to start talking. Ultimately, that talking should lead to an advance directive or agreement that will guide future plans and health care decisions should you be unable to make your wishes known.

It’s no coincidence that the annual observance lands the day after tax returns are due – it was inspired by Ben Franklin’s quote: “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes.” National Healthcare Decisions Day gives you a reason to broach the conversation without the angst of why.

So if you haven’t outlined your wishes, now’s the time to start thinking, start a conversation and start mapping out a plan.

City of Hope always offers online information and resources on advance care planning. But on April 16, in observance of National Healthcare Decision Day, it will also offer two information events to encourage the creation of an advance health care plan.

The events are open to the community and will allow participants to consult with advance planning experts, including supportive medicine physicians and clinical social workers. The first health care decision event will be at City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center; the other will be at the Duarte Senior Center. City of Hope will also offer a free Estate Planning 101 Workshop on April 23.

Whether or not you attend an event, here are five questions to get the conversation started:

Why do I need to outline my health decisions in advance?

With clear directions about how you want to be treated and what is important to you, your health care team, family and friends won’t have to second-guess what you would have wanted.

Who will make decisions about my health if I am unable to?

You should designate a health care agent – a relative or friend whom you trust to make medical decisions if you cannot make them yourself.


National Healthcare Decisions Day 2015 Make a plan that can guide your health care team and your loved ones in making decisions about your health care in case you're unable to do so. Do it for yourself. Do it for them. Do it on National Healthcare Decisions Day.

How do I formalize my wishes?

There are three types of documents you can use.

  • Advance health care directive: These written instructions to your loved ones and medical team explain the type of medical treatment and health care that you would want in the event that you're unable to speak directly with your health care providers.
  • Durable power of attorney for health care: Also known as a “health care proxy,” this document names another person as your health care agent.
  • Living will: outlines your preferences for medical treatment if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious and unable to actively take part in making decisions for your own life.

Do I need these documents to ensure my wishes are known?

You don’t have to have any of them. But if there’s ever a time when you are unable to speak for yourself, having one or more of them helps ensure that your wishes are known.

How can I get the conversation started? It doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. City of Hope’s supportive care medicine team uses conversation tools to help patients and families make decisions.

So on National Healthcare Decisions Day, take a moment and make your wishes known. Whether you formalize them that day or set up a time to gather your family soon thereafter, don’t put it off.

Learn more about advance directives and City of Hope's Department of Supportive Care Medicine.

For more information about the City of Hope events, please call the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at 626-218-CARE (2273) or email [email protected]


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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