April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

The time to make end-of-life decisions is now.


National Healthcare Decisions Day exists “to inspire, educate, and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning end-of-life decisions.” Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is partnering with Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard to help educate the community about end-of-life decisions.

“Advanced care planning,” Paddy Moore, chair of Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard, said, “is a critically important process that can bring you closer to the people you love, and allow you and them to focus on the quality of your lives together when you are faced with serious illness.”

“You don’t have to be in a place where death is imminent,” Kristyn Mitchell, chief quality officer of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, said. “It’s important to have these discussions at a point in your life when you’re healthy.”

The first step in making end-of-life decisions is to assign a healthcare proxy, the person who will make decisions about your medical care if you become unable to make them yourself.

“The healthcare proxy is the document for conveying who’s going to make decisions for you,” Mitchell said, “but it doesn’t list what those decisions are.” The Five Wishes is a document that can help clarify those decisions.


The Five Wishes

Wish 1
Whom do you want to make care decisions for you when you can’t? This person is also called a proxy, surrogate, representative, or health care  power of attorney.

Wish 2
What kind of medical treatment do you want? Also called a living will.

this is a definition of what life-support treatment means to you, and when you would and would not want it.

Wish 3
How comfortable do you want to be? What type of pain management would you like; would you like to know about options for hospice care, among others?

Wish 4
How do you want people to treat you; do you want to remain at home, do you want someone to pray at your bedside?

Wish 5
How do you wish to be remembered and do you have final wishes regarding funeral or memorial plans?

These are the discussions we encourage you to have with your loved ones, it’s also recommended that you involve your family physician. When you have filled out your Five Wishes, keep a hard copy at your house where it can be easily accessible, and share copies with your loved ones and with your physician, If your PCP is in the MVH network The Five Wishes can be entered into your electronic medical record.

“Talking about death can be challenging,” Moore said, “but it can bring a great relief, and can allow the joy of knowing that you are going to walk the path that you want, and that your loved ones understand that path and can support you in your journey.”