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National Healthcare Decisions Day: Making Conversations Count

April 15, 2019

In recognition of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, Sabrina Mikan, Ph.D., of Texas Oncology–Austin Central discusses advance care planning and how taking action today can make all the difference in future medical decisions. Mikan also serves as director of supportive care programs for Texas Oncology.

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning addresses future medical care if you are unable to speak for yourself. This includes completing advance directive documents that help you tell your family and medical team whom you want to oversee making medical decisions on your behalf and instructions for carrying out those decisions. It’s all about patient empowerment.

Why is it important for families to discuss medical directives?

End-of-life wishes can be hard to consider – and emotionally challenging to talk about – at any point in a person’s life. By participating in advance care planning and maintaining an open dialogue, you and your family can have meaningful conversations about exactly what you want to happen if an illness becomes terminal or you are no longer able to communicate your wishes.

What are the most common concerns you hear from patients and their families?

There is a misconception that advance care planning is only completed during times of crisis, versus times of wellness. The opposite is true, and I like to refer to these conversations as ‘healthy conversations’ to be had when a patient is doing well, they are in treatment, and they are able to think clearly and take time to discuss their values and goals with their family and healthcare team.

What is the most important message to keep in mind about advance care planning?

National Healthcare Decisions Day is the perfect opportunity to sit down and discuss advance directives, learn more about the process, and complete the documents. This isn’t only for patients – medical decision-making is something for everyone to think about, no matter the state of our current health, because it empowers us all to take control of our future medical decisions. Texas Oncology’s My Choices, My Wishes Advance Care Planning Program has been helping patients and their families since 2012. If you’re not a patient but you’re interested in learning care directives, visit Texas Advance Directive for more information.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.