CHICAGO, April 16, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Healthcare can often be complicated and require difficult decisions, but patients aren't always in a position to make their own decisions when the time comes. Today, April 16, is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day that is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance for every adult to take time to consider what their health care wishes are and develop advance directives to make sure those wishes are known to their care team and loved ones.
"It is not always easy to have conversations about our medical wishes with the people we are closest to, but these conversations are important and everyone's care wishes should be documented," said Kathy Neely, MD, a Northwestern Medicine® internist and chair of the Medical Ethics Committee at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "When a patient hasn't provided any advance directives and isn't healthy enough to make decisions about their own care, loved ones are often put in the uncomfortable position of making difficult choices without the benefit of patient's own guidance."
Advance directives can take two main forms, a power of attorney for healthcare and a living will. Each form is free to use and relatively easy to complete. Power of attorney for healthcare names a trusted person as an "agent," who is then designated to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient as needed. When designating an agent for advance directives, it is important to review all medical care wishes with the person selected, so they are well informed and any questions he or she might have about those wishes are answered. An agent can be a family member, partner, good friend – anyone the individual feels is best qualified.
"There is one equally important step everyone needs to remember beyond completing their advance directives, and that is making sure they will be used," said Mary F. Mulcahy, MD, a Northwestern Medicine oncologist and member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. "Even if a patient's advance directives are available, their family or health care providers may not know they exist or how to access them."
Neely and Mulcahy stress not only the importance of having advance directives in place, but of also making sure loved ones are informed about them in the event they are needed. As strong advocates for advance directives themselves, both doctors have their own directives in place and regularly make sure they are kept up-to-date to reflect their wishes accurately.
"It can be difficult to sit down and prepare your advance directives and talk about them with loves ones, but this planning is critical. This preparation is the most effective way for patients to stay in control of their own lives and health care wishes," added Mulcahy.
At Northwestern Memorial, advance directives are scanned directly into the hospital's electronic medical record system and all patients are asked if their directives are current during admission, and given the opportunity to provide new documentation.
Visit our website for more information about advance directives and to download free power of attorney for healthcare and living will forms. To learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day, visit www.nhdd.org.
About Northwestern Medicine®
Northwestern Medicine® is the collaboration between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine around a strategic vision to transform the future of healthcare. It encompasses the research, teaching and patient care activities of the academic medical center. Sharing a commitment to superior quality, academic excellence and patient safety, the organizations within Northwestern Medicine comprise more than 9,000 clinical and administrative staff, 3,100 medical and science faculty and 700 students. The entities involved in Northwestern Medicine remain separate organizations. Northwestern Medicine is a trademark of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and is used by Northwestern University.
About Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Northwestern Memorial is one of the country's premier academic medical center hospitals and is the primary teaching hospital of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Along with its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry, the hospital has 1,705 affiliated physicians and 6,769 employees. Northwestern Memorial is recognized for providing exemplary patient care and state-of-the art advancements in the areas of cardiovascular care; women's health; oncology; neurology and neurosurgery; solid organ and soft tissue transplants and orthopaedics.
Northwestern Memorial has nursing Magnet Status, the nation's highest recognition for patient care and nursing excellence. Northwestern Memorial ranks 10th in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report 2014-15 Honor Roll of America's Best Hospitals. The hospital is recognized in 14 of 16 clinical specialties rated by U.S. News and is No. 1 in Illinois and Chicago in U.S. News' 2014-15 state and metro rankings, respectively. For 15 years running, Northwestern Memorial has been rated among the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" guide by Working Mother magazine. The hospital is a recipient of the prestigious National Quality Health Care Award and has been chosen by Chicagoans as the Consumer Choice according to the National Research Corporation's annual survey for 16 consecutive years.
SOURCE Northwestern Medicine