It's Never Too Soon to Have That Talk
There's never a good time to bring up the subject of our final wishes in casual conversation. At least until trouble arises, and by that time, it's usually too late.

That is why April 16 has been designated as National Healthcare Decisions Day.

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) aims to raise awareness about the value of advanced care planning among the general public and healthcare professionals. To sum up, clinicians need to conduct dialogues with terminally ill patients that make them aware of their options for care.

It's a significant problem. The Conversation Project in 2012 found that while 90% of respondents agreed that talking about how they want to be cared for in the event of their death was vital, only 30% had these talks.

About 70% of people say they want to die at home, but 70% die in hospitals or other institutions.

About three million people have taken part in NHDD events and learned about advance directives so far, thanks to the support of more than 100 national organizations and 1,600 state and local groups. In all 50 states, hospitals, pharmacies, libraries, churches, synagogues, and mosques will be among the groups participating.

We've taught more than 10,000 doctors, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare workers across the country, and we've also gathered more than 3,000 hospice and home health workers to watch the film and talk about how to use its lessons in their daily care of patients.

We want to help get everyone talking about these things sooner. Not just when we're sick or in the hospital but also when we're with our families at dinner. And when we go to the doctor for an annual checkup.

These talks shouldn't be about death. If our health worsens, it should be about life, specifically our goals, wishes, and choices.

Families, caregivers, and doctors should discuss these priorities and choices as soon as possible and be taught how to do them right.

This also means that patients should be able to start hospice care sooner than most do so they can get the most out of it. They should also have the right to die at home instead of in a hospital if they want to.

Here is something you and your family can do right now. Write down your Five Wishes; a living will be made with the help of the American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging and top experts in end-of-life care. The paper's purpose is to tell your family, friends, and doctor what to do. It includes your medical wishes if you get very sick and your personal, emotional, and spiritual ones, like how you want to be treated and what you wish your loved ones to know.

There's no better day than today to start.