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Letter: End-of-life care requires conversations, planning

I had not given end-of-life care planning much thought until my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Following her diagnosis, we sat down as an extended family to discuss healthcare and end of life care options and decisions.

It was quite eye opening to hear my grandparents, parents and siblings share their values and priorities. For such a close family, our individual choices for end-of-life care varied widely. I was so thankful for that conversation, and the several that followed, as I felt more able to support and advocate for my family members.

The discussions that I had with my grandmother helped me to be the best voice for her when she was no longer able to speak for herself.

National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16, an annual observance that presents a great opportunity to reach out to our loved ones to start having necessary conversations about advance care planning — what kind of care we want in case we get dementia, whether or not (and under what circumstances) we want life-sustaining measures, and who will speak for us if we get a life-threatening illness and are unable to communicate on our own.

This observance was founded to inspire, educate and empower people to plan ahead and make their end-of-life care wishes known to their loved ones and healthcare providers through advance directives. These documents can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health website.

Do you have your advance directive completed? If not, you risk healthcare providers and loved ones making difficult decisions that perhaps do not reflect your wishes. Let us take out the guesswork by talking to our doctors and loved ones before we become too sick to speak for ourselves. For more information, there are many resources available through Compassion & Choices, a non-profit organization.

Kelly Rice, Homewood

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