Hospice: Make end-of-life decisions now

Whether you’re 25 or 75, adult Nebraskans of all ages are encouraged to make plans should the worst happen — as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day. Katie Smith, a spokeswoman for the Hospice program, says one easy form can ensure the right decisions are made if you’re ever in a situation where you’re unable to make end-of-life health care decisions for yourself.

Smith says, “What it is, is really a time to get people thinking and talking with their loved ones about sharing their wishes for their end-of-life care, setting up these, what we call advance directives documents when they’re no longer able to speak for themselves.” She says even though it’s hard to talk about the end of your life, it’s just as important to make sure you have things set up ahead of time, and it’s not something worth procrastinating about.

“Although it’s difficult to start the conversation, that’s why Hospice is putting together materials to kind of ease that process,” says Smith. “What we’ve found is, it’s so much easier for folks to have these conversations and get things set up while they’re healthy and able to make those decisions.”

A free packet is being made available that provides examples of advance directives, from the simplest to the very detailed. It also includes talking points to make sure everything is considered.

According to Smith, there’s not even a legal fee involved in the process. “An attorney isn’t necessary, a notary isn’t necessary for the durable power of attorney for health care. That’s separate from an ethical will for financial matters. All that’s necessary are two witnesses to witness signing it,” Smith says.

The legal battle in 2005 with Terri Schiavo in Florida should make people realize that all adults need an advanced directive, she says, regardless of age. A recent survey shows only 50-percent of American adults have one signed. According to Smith, you should make sure your designated proxy and your doctor both a copy of the document.

To find a Hospice facility in Nebraska near you, visit this online directory.