By Lisa Simmons-Fields DNP, MSA, RN, CCM, CPHQ

As a case manager, you play a critical role in helping your patients navigate the healthcare system, including difficult end-of-life care decisions. It's essential to not only guide your patients in making these choices but also to ensure that you and your family members have thought about your own wishes.

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is an annual event recognized on April 16th, aimed at promoting proactive healthcare planning to ensure that your family and caregivers honor your wishes if you become unable to make decisions yourself. It's never too early to start thinking about these decisions, and as a case manager, you can encourage your patients to begin the conversation with their loved ones and healthcare providers.

One way to give your loved ones peace of mind is to choose a designated person or persons who can talk to your doctors, nurses, and other members of your care team on your behalf if you become unable to make decisions yourself. This person is commonly referred to as a healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney, and it's essential to share your values and goals of care with them. It's important to have someone who knows your wishes and can advocate for you when you can no longer do so yourself.

It is also critical to discuss your wishes with your own family, spiritual advisors, and healthcare providers. Just as you encourage your patients to document their wishes, you should document your own wishes and ensure that your family members and healthcare providers are aware of them. Once the correct documents are completed and signed, take a copy of your end-of-life wishes to each of your doctors, and bring one if you are ever admitted to the hospital.

NHDD serves as a reminder to think about your healthcare preferences and plan for your future care before a crisis occurs.

The Conversation Project is an excellent place to start. It is a resource for both you and your patients to begin thinking and talking about end-of-life care decisions. They provide various resources: including conversation starter kits, guides on how to choose a healthcare proxy, and guidance on completing the necessary documents to document your wishes.

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For the ever growing group of Baby Boomers, caring for elderly parents and preparing for their end of life, is a most difficult decision to discuss and make. How does one begin to discuss end of life choices with their parent(s) and the healthcare provider, if they have one. The very words Hospice or Palliative Care are ones that nobody wants to discuss or think about. It’s something we’d like to deal with at a later time. Unfortunately, that time can happen quickly and your decision is now required. Learn More:

Bio: Lisa serves as the Director, System Population Health/Care Management for Trinity Health System. Lisa’s passion is standardizing evidence-based integrated care coordination programs to support the highest quality patient care. Lisa serves as President-Elect and Chair of the Education and Membership Committees for CMSA-Detroit Chapter and the Editorial Board of CMSA. Lisa also serves on the Epic Care Management Advisory Board.