Our mission here at Carely is to advocate for and empower families in hospice, home care, and palliative settings. We do this by providing families with tools that help them more easily communicate about a loved one's care. It is for this reason that we couldn't be more excited to recognize National Healthcare Decisions Day. (NHDD, for all the acronym lovers out there.)

For those of you following us on Twitter, we've been gearing up for NHDD by sharing articles all week that highlight the importance of advance directives and end-of-life planning. As of today, NHDD is exactly a month away. So, today, we're taking a closer look at this initiative and how you can get involved.

What is NHDD?

NHDD is a grassroots initiative that takes place annually on April 16. This year, NHDD is being celebrated the entire second week of April. According to the organization's website, "NHDD exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning." Furthermore, NHDD aims to "demystify healthcare decision-making and make the topic of advance care planning inescapable."

NHDD was founded in 2008 by Nathan Kottkamp with the goal of normalizing conversations surrounding end-of-life care and encouraging healthcare providers "to know a patient's wishes—whatever they may be—and to honor those choices to the greatest degree possible." Check out why NHDD was founded, in Kottkamp's own words, here.

There are over 100 organizations that have agreed to participate in NHDD 2017, including AARPNHPCO, and National Association of Social Workers (NASW). This year's theme is, "It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late.Each day of the campaign has a different theme, which can be found here.

Why is advance care planning important?

As a culture, we are, generally, death-adverse. The reality is death is inevitable. If we take the time now to prepare for our own deaths as well as the deaths of our loved ones, we all will be better prepared when the time comes. Advance directives take the guess work out of end-of-life planning and alleviate some of the discomfort of conversations about death. Furthermore, these conversations encourage families to learn more about one another's wishes--medical, end-of-life, and otherwise.

In a 2005 study about end-of-life decisions, conducted by Pew Research, 35% of participants had given end-of-life care/treatment considerable thought, and only 29% admitted to having a living will. Older adults (65+) are much more likely to discuss their future medical care wishes with a child (63%) as well as talk about their will (76%). End-of-life-care discussions should not be limited to this demographic.

As healthcare providers and hospice/palliative advocates, we recognize the importance of advance-care planning. NHDD reminds us, in our various roles, to talk to everyone in our lives--clients, family, friends--about the importance of having these challenging, but ultimately necessary, conversations.

How can I participate in NHDD?

NHDD is a super-collaborative movement, so there are numerous ways you can get involved on both an individual and organizational level. For starters, check out NHDD's "Join the Movement" page. Here, you'll have the opportunity to pledge to participate, make a tax-deductible donation, sign-up for their monthly newsletter, and more.

NHDD has prepared an extensive list of ideas of ways to get involved in the movement. Some suggestions include: making everyone at your organization aware of NHDD, presenting on NHDD at a local organization (senior center, library, etc.) to bring awareness to NHDD in your community, and publishing an op-ed piece for a local publication discussing advance care planning/NHDD.

We highly encourage you to participate in NHDD 2017. Aside from community-driven awareness initiatives, we also recommend participating in the conversation on social media. The easiest way to find and share content is to follow NHDD on Facebook and Twitter and to conduct a hashtag search for "NHDD."

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