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November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

The holidays are a time to gather with family near and far. They also provide an opportunity to have discussions that many of us put off until it’s too late: how we want to be cared for at the end of life.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time when hospice and palliative care organizations across the country such as Stillwater Hospice (formerly Visiting Nurse) encourage people to set aside time to discuss their end-of-life medical care wishes with those who would otherwise be tasked with making difficult decisions under very stressful circumstances.

Having these conversations ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding medical treatments when a person is incapacitated by illness or injury. As the COVID pandemic has shown, medical crises can arise without warning. Letting your loved ones know how you want to be cared for puts you in control.

Knowing in advance how your parent or other loved one wants to be cared for in times of medical crisis can help lessen the stress that inevitably occurs when that person is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or injury.

According to the National Institutes of Health, advance care planning is not just something only old people should do. At any age, a medical crisis could leave someone too ill to make his or her own health care decisions.

Even if you are not sick now, making health care plans is an important step toward making sure you get the medical care you would want, even when doctors and family members are making the decisions for you.

National polls show that more than 50 percent of adults have not had any conversations with loved ones about their wishes, though 90 percent of adults say such conversations are important.

These aren’t easy conversations to have, to be sure. But there are ways to start the conversation so that all concerned can be made comfortable. Questions can include:

• “What is important to you at the end of life?”
• “What are your concerns about medical treatment?”
• “What are your preferences about where you receive treatment – at home or in a medical facility?”
• “What are the three most important things you want me to know when making decisions about your medical care?”

Ensuring that your wishes are carried out in times of medical crisis can be challenging, but Indiana law recognizes several specific types of advance directives. They include a living will or life-prolonging procedures declaration; an appointment of health care representative; a power of attorney directive; and the POST form – Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment. Information on these advance care planning documents can be found on the Indiana State Department of Health website. You can also learn more at

Reviewing and completing the appropriate documents and making sure your loved ones and your health care providers know about your wishes will help guide your care as you wish it to be. And you will be reassured that your loved ones know what your wishes are.