Office for the Aging


April 16 is National Healthcare Decision Day

National Healthcare Decisions Day exists to inspire and educate all people about the importance of advance care planning. National Healthcare Decisions Day is an initiative to encourage you to express your wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be.

Advance Care Planning is a process of planning for future medical care in case you are unable to make your own decisions. It is a continual process and not merely a document or isolated event.

Advance Care Planning assists you in preparing for a sudden unexpected illness, from which you expect to recover, as well as the dying process and ultimately death. Engaging in the process of advance care planning is a gift to individuals and families. It allows individuals to maintain control over how they are treated and ensures control over the type of care and the type of death that they desire.

In New York State only a Health Care Proxy can be used to designate an agent to make your health care decisions if you cannot speak for yourself. Information about Health Care Proxies and the necessary form are available at the New York State Department of Health(External Link).

Many people have strong opinions about what is important to them at the very end of their lives. Others want to be sure that certain things they dislike or fear will be avoided. Therefore, it is important for you to take some time now to explore your own values and beliefs.

After investigating your values, beliefs and goals for care, it is important that you share what is important to you with your Spokesperson ("Agent") and Alternate, family, physicians, lawyer, friends, and spiritual advisor.

Below are some thoughts for you to discuss with your Spokesperson ("Agent") and Alternate in order to make sure that they understand your wishes and can act on your behalf.

If you were facing death, how important would each of the issues below be? Think about how you would rate each of these issues on a four point scale (not important, moderately important, very important, or extremely important)

  • Avoiding pain/suffering, even if it means that I might not live as long
  • Being alert, even if it means I might be in pain
  • Being around my family and close friends
  • Being able to feel someone touching me
  • Having religious or spiritual advisors at my side when I die
  • Being able to tell my life story and leave good memories for others
  • Reconciling differences and saying "good-bye" to my family and friends
  • Being at home when I die
  • Being in a hospital when I die
  • Being kept alive long enough for my family to get to my bedside to see me before I die, even if I'm unconscious