The Hardest Part: Starting a Conversation About What Should Happen if You’re Dying



AUSTIN, Texas – (April 16, 2015) – Often the hardest part of planning for serious illness and the possibility of dying is simply starting the conversation.

To encourage our patients and community members to make their healthcare choices known, Seton Healthcare Family is participating in National Healthcare Decisions Day on Thursday, April 16.

“There is a perception that completing advance directives is only for people who are nearing end of life,” said Tara Strain, senior patient representative and quality coordinator, Patient Experience, at Seton Medical Center Williamson. “It’s important to start the conversation when you’re still able to speak for yourself. We’d like everyone to view advance directives as insurance, like we all have on our cars and homes, and view it as protection for potential future events that might occur.”

A 2012 study by the California HealthCare Foundation revealed that 82 percent of people say it is important to put their wishes in writing, but only 23 percent have done it.

We communicate our preferences daily – where we want to eat for dinner, how we want to spend our free time, what we want in our coffee. We plan ahead for vacations, birthday parties, carpools. Consider how much more important it is to talk about what you want your healthcare to consist of.

April 16 Activities

Three Seton sites – Seton Medical Center Williamson, Seton Northwest Hospital, and Seton Southwest Hospital – will host events on April 16 to encourage community members to begin the conversation about advance directives.

Tables will be set-up and staffed by Seton associates volunteering to address questions, provide one-on-one education and counsel individuals on filling out advance directives. The process does not take long and it’s free.

  • At Seton Southwest, volunteers will be located in the main lobby from 7 to 9 a.m., noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 16
  • At Seton Williamson and Seton Northwest, volunteers will be located outside of the cafeteria from noon until 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 16

“Advance directives help us know what matters most to our patients,” said Dawn Seery, director of Healthcare Ethics with Seton Healthcare Family. “It guides physicians and nurses in planning care for their seriously ill patients. It also frees family and friends from guilt or worry by offering a way to honor your values and preferences for treatment.”

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a legal document that tells health care providers who you wish to make medical decisions for you and what treatments you would want or not want, if you are unable to tell them yourself.

In Texas, there are four types of advance directives: 1) medical power of attorney, 2) directive to physician and family or surrogates, 3) out of hospital do not resuscitate and 4) declaration of mental health treatment.