As an attorney, you have particular potential to help folks think and talk about their health care goals and wishes. This makes you in synch with National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), a grassroots initiative now in its 6th year which encourages people to do just this. (April 16, the day after tax day, is designated as it’s in keeping with Ben Franklin’s adage that nothing is certain “except death and taxes.”)
Given your busy schedule, here are some straightforward things to choose from to help others focus just a bit on advance care planning. Some are purely altruistic. Others have marketing potential built in.
- Lead by example: Create or update your own advance directive. Talk with your family about your wishes if you haven’t. (Talking about theirs, too, is even better!)
- Take your staff’s pulse. Have your staff take a quick, anonymous survey of whether they’ve done any thinking about their wishes or completed an advance directive and why or why not. For a short survey, email me. (Your staff may be a good barometer of what your clients are thinking.)
- Encourage your staff to do basic advance care planning. Facilitate an informal conversation among staff about their own questions and their wishes. Maybe bring in lunch to help spur the talking. Have advance directive forms available and have a witnessing party when they sign.
- Offer clients tools to help them talk to their families. The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit includes great ideas for how to open the conversation, along with guidance for talking with their doctor. To introduce a little levity, try suggesting a special deck of cards to spur the conversation. The best ones I’ve found are Heart2Hearts and Go Wish (also has an online version).
- Pass this post on to your colleagues via the listserv of your bar association or estate planning council.
- Engage one member of the media. Contact one health reporter from your local newspaper or TV station and offer yourself as an expert for a story. (The NHDD website has a media kit.) Or, submit an article or op-ed to your local paper (use the NHDD standard template, or contact me for one specifically designed for estate planning and elder law attorneys).
- Reach out to one religious leader in your community (perhaps your own, if relevant). Use the email template in the list of NHDD Tools. Provide links to: the Conversation Project to help parishioners/congregants get started; your state’s online advance directive form; and to the Faith Leader’s Initiative of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC).
Let me know if I can be of any assistance.
Randi J. Siegel,MBA, is the President of DocuBank(docubank.com), the largest advance directives registry in the U.S., which ensures that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 200,000 enrollees are immediately available 24/7/365. Working with estate planning professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries. A member of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, the International Society of Advance Care Planning, and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, she is active in health education and public engagement related to advance care planning and advance directives and serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National Healthcare Decisions Day initiative. Randi is an ongoing contributor to the Academy blog.
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