Speaking Up for Health Care Decisions

Whatever your faith, chances are you’re familiar with these famous words from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “There’s a time to be born; there’s a time to die. . . . There is a time to be silent. And there’s a time to speak.” If you’re a fellow Baby Boomer, you probably sang those words to Turn, Turn, Turn, popularized by the Byrds in 1965—but written as a protest song by Pete Seeger in the late ‘50s.

Silence in protest can be both powerful and extremely uncomfortable. In the recent March for our Lives in Washington, D.C., Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland survivors and a leader of the student movement, got up to speak. She said a few words about each of the victims, then stood still, tears rolling down her cheeks. The crowd started to cheer, unclear how to respond. Gonzalez finally broke her silence, at 6 minutes and 20 seconds from the time she stepped to the podium, which was exactly how long it took for the gunman to kill the 17 victims. I believe her speech (or really her silence) was the most powerful of the afternoon.

However, there are times when silence can render us powerless or even impotent. There are times when we must speak up, if not for society’s sake, than at least for our own. Travel through any major transportation hub in this country and you’re sure to hear “If you see something, say something.”

April 16 Kicks Off National Healthcare Decisions Week

On April 15 (April 17 this year), Americans will file their income tax returns. April 16, in keeping with Benjamin Franklin’s saying that “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), kicking off a week for health care decision planning

NHDD emphasizes education and awareness to encourage adults to create a health care plan. It is NOT just about end-of-life planning. Case in point: when our sons turned 18, we had each of them sign healthcare proxies and durable powers of attorney, just in case. After all, we never know when something could happen that changes everything.

Every adult is at risk of being unable to make healthcare decisions. I had a very close call 11 years ago, when I suddenly became critically ill and was comatose for five days. My husband had to speak for me and give consents for certain interventions.

Fortunately, we had a health care plan in place, including a health care proxy and an advance health care directive—documents that help an adult name someone to make health care decisions if/when the individual is incapacitated and that identify what decisions the individual wants to be made on their behalf. Creating the planning document before a health crisis gives you the opportunity to think and talk about the different kinds of health care and treatment that you do or don’t want during your lifetime. As your needs and circumstances change, it’s worth revisiting the plan and making necessary updates.

Health Care Planning Tools Available through Honoring Choices

For the past several years, I have been a Community Partner of Honoring Choices, a consumer-focused non-profit supporting the right of every adult to direct their health care choices for quality care today and everyday all through their lives.

Honoring Choices provides up-to-date health care planning information, free Massachusetts care planning documents, and handy guides to start a planning discussion with your care providers to match quality care to your goals, values and choices. You can find those resources here.

When you need to take care of yourself and advocate for your health care, you can’t afford to be silent. Health care agents or care provides must remember to be silent in order to hear what those they serve are trying to communicate. A time to be speak, and a time to be silent, indeed.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care® manager. Drawing on more than 35 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: Lui Peng

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2 Responses to Speaking Up for Health Care Decisions

  1. Carrie Webster says:

    I really enjoyed this! Balancing the time to advocate, and the time to listen. Both roles are so important. Thanks Deb

  2. monica wolf says:

    Well said Deb!

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