Choices and Champions®
April 16, 2020, is National Healthcare Decisions Day. I am sharing a story which highlights why this day is so very important but often goes unnoticed. Both of my parents lived long, meaningful lives. My mom passed away at the age of 89 years, and my dad passed away two weeks later, at the age of 88 years. They had just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary and were as in love on that day as on their wedding day.
Losing them in such a short time span was devastating to me, my brothers and my sister, but our parents were planners and had made all of the tough decisions about health care, power of attorney, burial plans, and estate settlement. They made difficult choices early so that my family could help them pass in a peaceful, conflict-free way. This was truly a gift.
This was not the case when my husband suddenly passed away at the age of 54, a few years prior to my parents’ passing. Teddy passed away without a will and without making any choices or decisions about end of life circumstances. He was only 54 years old, so why would we need to think so far ahead or even start talking about this subject? Our family struggled to make clear, rational decisions during a very stressful and painful time in the weeks following his death. Fortunately, we were a large, loving family, and everyone pitched in the best they could to help make medical decisions and funeral arrangements, even though all of us were grieving and in shock. The contrast between the loss of my parents and loss of my husband was stark for many reasons, but one primary distinction was the lack of proper planning on our part for difficult healthcare and end of life choices. My parents had the gift of time and a long life, while Teddy did not.
Novant Health recognizes the need for healthcare planning at the end of life and has a dedicated culture of Advance Care Planning called Choices and Champions®. Novant Health provides services and assistance for “making sure that patients’ wishes are known and honored so that everyone gets the care that they want – no more, no less.” Novant Health is encouraging you to pick a healthcare CHAMPION, someone who knows your needs and health goals and can express those when you can’t. They have resources to assist you in determining the best CHAMPION for you based on their ability to be trusted, committed, and available for you. Novant Health is also promoting CHOICES, choosing the level of care you are comfortable with and outlining medical decisions now. Outlining your medical choices now ensures your wishes are followed and takes the burden off of loved ones who may be called upon to speak for you. Choices may include treatment options based on your personal values, which can include choosing between multiple medical options and which treatment options you choose not to receive. It is extremely important to discuss these choices with your loved ones and your healthcare team along with documenting your choices in Advance Directives such as a Health Care Power of Attorney or a Living Will so your wishes are known and can be honored.
The Novant Health Choices and Champions® coordinators can assist with any of these decisions, whether you are a Novant Health patient or under the care of another healthcare provider. These coordinators provide free resources to anyone who reaches out to them to help with paperwork and ensure the forms are legally binding. To schedule a free consultation with one of Novant’s Choices and Champions® coordinators, call toll-free at 1-844-677-5134.
While conversations about end of life are uncomfortable and may seem unnecessary if you are young, I can’t emphasize how wrong you might be to think that you have time to plan for this later. I thought that, too, and could have been a bigger support to my children and family if Teddy and I had made these difficult decisions sooner. A good first step is to start a conversation with loved ones on April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day, or to visit the Novant Health Choices and Champions® website. I hope you make good choices about your health on that day and every day.
Resources at Novant Health:novanthealth.org/home/patients–visitors/choices-and-champions