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Advance Directive Birthday Request- May 1 Deadline

Have You Completed Your Advance Directive?

By: Helen McNeal, Executive Director – CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care

A friend not long ago told me about being with a group of physicians who had recently lost a close colleague to a sudden illness. As they discussed his death, she asked them how many of them had an advance directive. She was shocked that no one did.

The story stayed with me and last week, at our Staff Meeting, I asked the same question of my staff and was shocked to discover that we only did slightly better than that group of physicians. We spend every day working with others on the importance of building skills in palliative care, advance care planning and having conversations … and only 4 out of 23 of us had completed an advance directive!

The Challenge

So, I issued a challenge … with something of a personal request. Have the conversation with those they love and get an advance directive in place by my birthday, May 1. Give me a birthday present that will actually be a gift to themselves and those they love. I am so proud of my team … they jumped on it. We are doing a “lunch and learn” on having the conversation and completing an advance directive to help things along.

I’ll keep you posted … but I’m confident that there will be 19 more advance directives completed in the world by May 1.

April 16th is National Health Care Decisions Day and this seemed to me like a great way to make the celebration of this important day very personal to my team. An advance directive is a great gift to oneself and to those you love, and it is a gift that keeps on giving right up to the day you die. Few gifts have that kind of staying power and impact. And it can be done for little or no cost.

Do This by Memorial Day

It got me thinking. What if each of you who receive our emails, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn made the same challenge to those you worked with? By Memorial Day, it is likely that thousands more advance directives would have been completed and thousands more families would have been spared the pain of having to make uncertain choices in difficult times.

As health care professionals we have a responsibility to lead by example. So I am posing a challenge to each of you … yes YOU! Are you ready?

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Don’t be Shocked

In recognition of National Health Care Decisions Day, I invite you to ask your staff the same question I did. How many of you have completed an advance directive? Simple … but don’t be shocked when you discover how few have one. (Yes … I am making the rash assumption that YOU have completed one! If not, the challenge is that much more important.) Then give them the challenge to get one done … before Memorial Day.

Let me know if you do it … and spread the challenge. Remember, you are sparing a family difficult decisions at a difficult time. Think of how many thousands more could be done by Memorial Day. Because together, we’ll change the health care experience of many thousands more!

Helen McNeal
Executive Director
CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care


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