Holiday Gatherings are a Great Time for Advance Care Planning
Experts say ‘Tis the Season to Talk with Family about Healthcare Wishes
When parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members gather around the holiday dinner table, conversations are typically sprinkled with small talk about the weather, football scores, and the latest gift-giving trends.
Rarely, though, do families address perhaps the most important subject for any adult – especially older adults with a serious health condition such as cancer, lung disease, or heart failure. What matters most to them in the time they have left on earth? How do they feel about invasive life-sustaining measures such as life support that might only prolong the inevitable? What kind of medical care would they want if they are no longer able to speak for themselves?
Discussing these healthcare decisions and the values that guide them is called advance care planning – and the best time to do it is now, experts say.
While such talk may seem at odds with the festive spirit of the season, the holidays are actually the perfect time for end-of-life discussions, said Sharon Hamill, PhD, a professor of Psychology at Cal State University San Marcos who has done significant work in the area of advance care planning. Hamill is the former and founding director of the CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care at Cal State San Marcos, a campus partner of the CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care.