MADISON, Wis.—April 10, 2023—Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” This month, income taxes for Americans are due on April 17 and April 16 is designated for thinking about your own health and planning for the most important future decisions you (or your family) need to make. It’s a good idea to set aside time to address both topics.
The income taxes are between you and the Internal Revenue Service. You should speak with a tax professional if you have questions on that topic. Advance care planning, however, is a topic for a family discussion.
National Health Care Decisions Day on April 16 is the perfect time to tackle advance care planning, according to Dr. Joelle Vlahakis, WPS Medical Director. This is a day dedicated to increasing advance care planning among adults throughout the country.
“Everyone should have a will, an assigned health care surrogate to help with medical decisions when incapacitated, and a directive regarding when to ask that resuscitation efforts be stopped,” Dr. Vlahakis said. “We all plan for major life events such as weddings, having children, or even taking a vacation. But planning for health care decisions? Many people skip that because it can be uncomfortable.”
While most people are never going to be “ready” to talk about planning for the end, talking about how health care during a crisis should work can be a valuable discussion. Do you want to be comfortable? Do you want a family member to make health care decisions for you? Do you want health care providers to go to extraordinary lengths to keep you alive? Having these decisions made ahead of time can help individuals and their families get through a difficult health episode with a little less stress.
“Surviving and living are not the same,” Dr. Vlahakis said. “Medical interventions can do incredible things, but some make you dependent on others, or they can cause great indignities. It’s important to discuss what’s most important to you.”
Prior to joining WPS, Dr. Vlahakis was the program director of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She has expansive experience, knowledge, and personal passion regarding end-of-life planning.