A Different but Meaningful National Healthcare Decisions Day: COVID-19 Demonstrates the Need for Advance Care Planning

The COVID-19 pandemic sheds new light on the often-abstract concept of advance care planning. Advance care planning is the process we use to think about, and document, what matters most to us, and our thoughts and desires when it comes to quality of life. The process also includes designating a health care agent who can make decisions that reflects what matters most if we’re unable to speak for ourselves.

During this pandemic, many people have had to make medical decisions for loved ones who were unable to communicate on their own. National Healthcare Decisions Day, observed every year on April 16, is a day set aside to remind us of the importance of advance care planning.

Advance care planning gives patients peace of mind in knowing that health care decisions will be made on their behalf by a person they trust. For family members and friends who have been named health care agents, advance care planning provides the confidence to make decisions based on their loved one’s values and beliefs.

The process begins with conversations with your health care provider, family members and trusted friends. Once you identify the person you’d like to serve as your health care agent, you document it by completing a health care proxy form. Through the power of technology, these important advance care planning conversations can occur through phone and videoconferencing.

The health care proxy form requires two witnesses to the signature. This can also be accomplished by using videoconferencing technology. A photo of the signed health care proxy can be mailed or emailed to the physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, or uploaded to the medical practice’s secure patient portal. Keep a copy for yourself and forward additional copies to family members, trusted friends, and your attorney.

National Healthcare Decisions day is a call to action. Real stories can help start the conversation. Share your story or use the Advance Care Planning videos on the CompassionAndSupport YouTube channel. Visit CompassionAndSupport.org to learn more about what a health care proxy is and how to choose the right health care agent. View the Advance Care Planning Section, including pages specifically dedicated to National Healthcare Decisions Day and special considerations given COVID-19.

Know your choices. Share your wishes. Celebrate National Healthcare Decisions day by starting your conversation today.