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Thanksgiving and other holidays are fast upon us-and it’s a great time to talk about things we often delay and put aside, like family health and advance care planning.

It’s never too early to put in writing what decisions you would make for your future health care in the event that you won’t be able to make them yourself due to illness or a traumatic event. Having an advance care plan documents your wishes so they can provide the level of care you want- it helps your family, friends and loved ones speak for you when you can no longer speak for yourself and also takes the burden of decision making out of their hands.

But how do we bring this up and start the conversation? If you’re unsure of how to bring up the subject storytelling can be very helpful. Discuss a friend, family member, or colleague who experienced a difficult health situation or experience. Maybe you saw or read a thought provoking conversation in the news along the lines of this topic. This can gently lead to discussing what you or your family members would want to happen in a similar situation. That doesn’t sound right for you? The conversation can also happen during medical appointments or during the “five D’s” of life:

  • Decade-when you begin a new decade of your life (I personally think 40 is a great time to start this)
  • Death-when you experience the death of a family member or friend (especially when it is unexpected or happens at a young age)
  • Divorce: divorce or major family changes can make you rethink who you want to make decisions for you in case you cannot
  • Diagnosis: when you or a close family member recently diagnosed with a chronic or serious health condition
  • Decline: when you experience a decline or deterioration of a health condition, or if you witness this decline with an aging relative or close friend.

These are important decisions to make and you should have a say in how you want to live and be cared for and not have those situations made in a high stress or emergency situation. We all put things aside for much too long, but being proactive with an advance care plane is a gift to yourself, your family and everyone who loves you.

Now we’ve had the conversation, how do we start the process? Don’t know where to start? Scared the process will be too complicated? Contact your primary care physician or Bridges Palliative Care to make an appointment and talk about your decisions.

To prepare yourself, we’ve included a helpful guide from CMS: https://www.cms.gov/outreach-and-education/medicare-learning-network-mln/mlnproducts/downloads/advancecareplanning.pdf