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Make every day count with National Healthcare Decisions Day
April 19, 2017

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So often, we take for granted the many choices and options that are available to us every day, from matters such as where to eat lunch to deeply important decisions regarding friends, careers and relationships.

Most of us share similar goals, like living each day to the fullest and celebrating life with our loved ones. When able to make these choices, we feel empowered, and have hope that we can plan for our future.

A very important but often overlooked component of our planning is related to our health care needs and wishes. In the event that we could no longer speak for ourselves, we must be sure that our most personal choices regarding our medical care would be honored.

One aspect of thorough health care and life planning includes learning more about options in life's closing chapter. It's important to overcome common misperceptions, like the idea that people don't live long with hospice care.

In fact, a study from the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management showed that those with hospice care lived almost two months longer than patients who only received standard care. By embracing a comforting choice, a person may be able to enjoy even more special days with loved ones.

Each April, as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Hope encourages everyone in our community to have important discussions about advance care planning.

As a local leader in helping people plan ahead and make their own choices, we have distributed tens of thousands of copies of Five Wishes - an easy-to-use guide that documents desires for future medical care. Five Wishes is considered a legal document in Florida and 41 other states, and in most cases, does not require the participation of a lawyer or notary.

Using this simple booklet, you can provide essential information for your family members and physicians, such as:

- Who you designate to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them

- The kind of medical treatment you want or don't want

- How comfortable you want to be

- How you want people to treat you

- What you want your loved ones to know

As a community service, Hope Healthcare offers copies of Five Wishes at no charge. Call 239-482-4673 or visit online at: agingwithdignity.org/five-wishes/redeem and use promotional code CHOICES.

After completing the form, be sure to share copies with your family members, professional advisors, clergy, doctors and other care providers.

I encourage everyone to access this helpful tool to begin important conversations with loved ones and to make informed decisions for your future. By making these choices as part of an overall plan for living well, you can live every day just as you wish.

Samira K. Beckwith is president and chief executive officer of Hope Healthcare, a not-for-profit health care organization offering programs and services in Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties.

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