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Healthcare Directives In The Midst Of The Coronavirus Pandemic

Picture of a patient's arm with tubes coming out of it as the patient lays in a hospital bed.
Olga Kononenko/Unsplash

National Healthcare Decisions Day falls on April 16th. Scheduled events to mark the day are being cancelled – as people of all ages, seemingly healthy, are dying of COVID-19.

Anyone over the age of 18 should have a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions if necessary. Naming a medical representative is as easy as going online and downloading a free form.

“The critical thing is to name someone who would speak for you if you could not speak for yourself and to be sure that you’ve had a good conversation with that person about the things that you would want,” says Rev. Candace McKibben, Director of Faith Outreach at Big Bend Hospice. “I’ve heard couples in my office who are talking about this who will say, ‘I didn’t know that would be what you would want.’”

McKibben says talking about death can make people anxious, leading them to avoid making decisions about healthcare directives. Plus, she says we often think there is plenty of time to have those discussions.

close up picture of Rev. Candace McKibben smiling
Credit Candace McKibben
Rev. Candace McKibben

“I think particularly in this pandemic situation, we are made aware of just how important it is for us to have these vital conversations,” says McKibben, who is still allowed to visit with dying patients if the family requests it. Because of restrictions now in place in nursing homes and other such facilities due to COVID-19, family members aren’t allowed to see their loved ones until the very end.

By the way, McKibben says April 16th was chosen as National Healthcare Decisions Day because the founder, Nathan Kottkamp, noted two things are certain in life: death and taxes, the latter of which comes due every April 15th.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.