To the editor:

April 16 marks the start of National Healthcare Decisions Week, when we look to educate the public about the importance of advanced care planning. A time may come, as a result of terminal illness or critical injury, when you may be unable to communicate your decisions about medical care so it is important to discuss and document your end-of-life wishes.

We encourage everyone over the age of 18 to fill out a health care proxy form that assigns someone the responsibility of being your voice in case health care decisions need to be made on your behalf. By selecting a health care proxy, completing a living will and discussing important health care decisions, you will help your loved ones’ act according to your wishes, in the event you cannot advocate for yourself.

It is also a good time for adults to start the advanced-care planning conversation with loved ones. We understand that this can be difficult to do. One tip of advice is to let family members know ahead of time that this is an important topic to you and to set aside a time to discuss, away from distractions, to start this important conversation. During the discussion, it’s important to keep in mind:

-- Be patient, because some people need time to think.

-- Living wills and health care proxies can be changed at any time.

-- Value and respect your loved one’s decisions and opinions.

-- Choose someone as a health care proxy that can advocate on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Here at North Shore Medical Center, we are proud to promote National Healthcare Decisions Week. We encourage everyone to take a few moments and make their future health care preferences known to family, friends, and health care providers.

Coleen Reid, M.D.

Chief of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

 North Shore Medical Center

Salem

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