Newspaper article Roll Call

Schumacher: It's Never Too Soon for Advance Care Planning

Newspaper article Roll Call

Schumacher: It's Never Too Soon for Advance Care Planning

Article excerpt

Each day across America, families are confronted with the challenges of making care decisions for their loved ones, young and old, facing a medical crisis. And, unfortunately, many of these families are making these decisions unexpectedly, with no time to prepare.

From sudden illness to accidents, life is unpredictable. We cannot postpone our life planning until we are ready because, for many of us, there is no such time. After all, according to some recent estimates, nearly one-fifth of all hospice patients were under the age of 65.

The effects of this are significant. From the emotional toll to the stress on family finances - even the cost to the health care system - we can avoid these burdens by better embracing end-of-life planning. Quite simply, no plan is not a plan.

That"s why it"s essential for families to have end-of-life planning conversations today and why we need robust public discourse among our policymakers that reflects those family-based conversations and prepares for our society"s future.

After all, year after year, we take the time to arrange family vacations, save for retirement and even plan what next year"s garden will look like. Why, then, wouldn"t we allot similar time to discussing and deciding what we want in our last months of life?

It"s important to note that advance care planning does not mean deciding to die. For many of us, it means fighting to live, battling illness and accepting the best care that is available

Also, advance care planning is not just about treatment. It"s about deciding who will take care of us, who will speak for us and how we will have our individual wishes fulfilled. It"s also about conveying those wishes to our loved ones, so that they - in an emotionally difficult time - do not need to confront the challenges of trying to guess at our wishes.

Ultimately, advance care planning is a gift that we can give our loved ones. How and when we will die is something that is simply out of our control.

But making our wishes known so that they can be honored is something that we can and should control. The end of life should be a time of peace, where the greatest burden on our loved ones should be saying goodbye. …

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