NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Plan for Your Future Care

healthcare decisions, written health care directive, elderly, advance care planning, National Healthcare Decisions Day

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Mercer County currently ranks 29 in North Dakota’s ranking for eldest counties. However, this number will be influenced by the increase in the older adult population (age 65 and older) as the baby boomers (those born from 1946 through 1964) continue to age. As a result of this, the older adult population is projected to increase by 49.1 percent over the next 14 years, a projected growth two to five times greater than that of the other age groups.


The topic of healthcare decisions is usually discussed more among the elderly, but life can change suddenly at any age. We never know when we might be injured seriously in a car accident, suffer a stroke or experience some other sudden injury or illness.

These types of situations can leave people unable to speak for themselves, and family members and health-care providers may be uncertain about how to proceed with their care. Loved ones can feel overwhelmed if they don’t know what types of treatment options you would consider.

You can make the decisions easier for them through advance care planning. That’s the process of deciding your own future health care and communicating these wishes in the form of a written health care directive.

The North Dakota State University Extension Services has resources on its Aging Well website at www.ag.ndsu.edu/aging to help you with advance care planning.

Now is a good time to get started on your planning because National Healthcare Decisions Day is in April. But this year, it’s an entire week - April 16-22.

How do you prepare a directive?

  • Think about what would be important to you (based on your personal values and beliefs) if you become very ill or are injured seriously.
  • Understand medical treatment options. Talk with your health-care provider if necessary.
  • Discussion your thoughts, concerns and choices with those close to you.
  • Choose a loved one to speak for you if you no longer can speak for yourself.
  • Prepare a health care directive.

Health-care providers and nurses in clinics, hospitals or skilled nursing facilities can answer many of the questions you may have about advance care planning. Faith community (parish) nurses, social workers and chaplains also may be available to provide you with assistance.

Most organizations have educational brochures that explain cardiopulmonary resuscitation, artificial hydration and nutrition, and other related issues usually addressed in a health care directive.

The best time to develop a plan is when you are healthy. We plan for most important events in our life, such as the birth of a baby, going on a trip, heading off to college and retirement. So why wouldn’t we plan for how we want to live at the end of our life?

Source: Jane Strommen, NDSU Extension gerontology specialist and http://www.ndcompass.org/demographics

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