"Let’s face it… talking about end-of-life care and decision-making isn’t something at the top of anyone’s list. It’s hard to think about leaving the ones we love, and equally hard to envision losing our loved ones. I’ve worked in hospice care for over 20 years, and I still get a lump in my throat when I talk about this with my husband."

From helping the thousands of patients we see every year, we’ve learned that having “the conversation” and making advance care planning decisions can ease a potentially difficult time. That’s not to say the conversation is easy. So let me suggest this: have a conversation with yourself, ‘What would I want if I were told I had six months to live? Where would I want to be? Who would take care of me? Would I stay home? Could I stay home?’

Now, don’t think that as the CEO of Hospice by the Bay, I haven’t had this conversation with my husband. I have. Several times. But by its very nature this is a conversation that should be repeated from time to time. Our wishes and needs change (or don’t) as the years go by. So, as often as I’ve had the conversation, it’s time to have it again.

What is advance-care planning? It’s deciding what care you want (or don’t want) if you are not able to speak for yourself. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. They’re your decisions. And obviously they’re personal. Sometimes we shy away from things like this or avoid them altogether because they’re personal or we discover that sharing them is both rewarding and liberating. I believe ‘the conversation’ is the latter.

And I’ll put my money where my mouth is, by pledging here and now to have the conversation with my husband again. In fact, let’s take that pledge together. Let’s have the conversation with our loved ones. And after you’ve had it, share it. Because it’s not enough just to have the conversation with one person, you have to share it with anyone who’ll have to act on it. So after you’ve ‘figured it all out,’ and talked it all out, put it in writing. That way, anyone who might need the information will know what you’ve decided. It may not feel like it now, but you’ll be giving them a gift.

One last thing… I meant it about taking that pledge together. Next time you see me, ask me if I’ve done it. And be prepared for me to ask if you have, too.

Kitty Whitaker, RN, MS – Chief Executive Officer, Hospice by the Bay


Video: Introduction to Advance Care Planning

Watch this 2 ½ minute video to hear one family’s experience and their doctor’s perspective about Advance Care Planning.

Advance Care Planning is simply a process of talking with the important people in your life about your health care preferences in advance. Having an Advance Care Plan is important for you, comforting for your family and friends and essential to responsive healthcare decision making.


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