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Your Healthy Family: The importance of having end of life care decisions made ahead of time

Wednesday April 19th is National Health Care Decision Day,  focusing on the things you should do before you, or your family have to deal with death. Wednesday April 19th is National Health Care Decision Day, focusing on the things you should do before you, or your family have to deal with death.
COLORADO SPRINGS -

Most of us have heard the saying, there are two certainties in life, death and taxes.  Tuesday April 18th was tax day, and hopefully with that out of the way we can focus on death for a moment.  Wednesday April 19th is National Health Care Decision Day, part of National Health Care Decision week, April 17th - 23rd.  It’s not so much about focusing on death, but the things you should do before you, or your family have to deal with it.  

Reverend Nathan Mesnikoff, Director of Spiritual Care at UCHealth Memorial says death is a topic that many people choose to avoid.  "I think people avoid it because they're afraid that if they talk about it (death) maybe they'll make it happen somehow.  We're not a culture that's very comfortable talking about death."

As the Director of Spiritual Care, Reverend Mesnikoff is often on the front lines of tough situations.  He says, "The fact is, that 70% of Americans die of a chronic illness.  What that means is that roughly 10% to 15% of Americans wind up dying in an intensive care unit, with all of the technology involved in that.  That technology is amazing and it can often preserve and prolonging life, but the same technology can sometimes prolong death."

The difference between extending life and prolonging death can be a difficult line to walk, once an end of life care situation is happening.  Reverend Mesnikoff says having those end of life care decisions made before the situation happens can make all the difference.

"I've seen this so many times, when families now have to make these decisions without any good information.  Sometimes daughter A says, ‘mom would want this’ and son B says, ‘dad would never want that’ and it creates all this strife at an already stressful time.  Whereas if we have the conversations and we then wrote those things down, we'd avoid so much of that turmoil."

While it seems almost everyone knows having these difficult conversations with loved ones, or your doctor and having a plan in writing is important, statistics say most of us just aren't getting it done.

Reverend Mesnikoff says, "When you survey people 80% to 90% of people say that they understand it's important to talk about this stuff and write it down, but less than a third of Americans have an advance directive in place and less than seventy percent of Americans actually talk to their physician about end of life care decisions."

There are plenty of free resources available to help you get started, at National Health Care Decision Day’s website,  http://www.nhdd.org/

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