National Healthcare Decisions Day

Nobody likes to think about death, but the fact of the matter is, no one can escape it.

April 16th, next Tuesday, is National Healthcare Decisions Day. This is an initiative encouraging families to have frank discussions about end-of-life health care wishes. When put into writing, those health care wishes can become advance directives – documents that provide guidance and instructions for those entrusted with a loved one’s care.

Advance directives are legal documents that allow people to give directions for their medical care, should they become unable to speak for themselves. There are several types of advance directive documents; two major documents used in Iowa are the durable power of attorney for health care (DPOAH) and the living will.

In a DPOAH document, an individual can appoint a person to make decisions about their medical care if they are unable to make those decisions due to illness or injury. A living will enables an individual to describe their wishes about the administration of medical treatment or life-sustaining procedures if they become unable to communicate due to a serious or terminal condition.

Both types of advance directives only go into effect if a person is unable to communicate his or her wishes. People who are lucid or able can make their own health care decisions – even if those decisions contradict their advance directives.

“The advance care planning process is just as much for the patient and making sure that their wishes are honored as it is for the family and making sure that they have that peace of mind, knowing that they did exactly what their loved one wanted them to do,” says EveryStep Hospice’s Mount Pleasant team director Ellen Telleen, RN.

To download a free advance care planning guide, visit

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep’s local team in Mount Pleasant at 319-385-4472 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.