With the deadly COVID-19 pandemic still raging, it seems a particularly appropriate time to observe National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16).

The annual observance emphasizes the need to discuss end-of-life care with loved ones. It coincides with Advance Care Planning month for Virginia.

You can communicate those decisions to your physician and healthcare providers through an advance care plan, also known as an advance directive, according to Marissa Galicia-Castillo, MD, Sue Faulkner Scribner Professor of Geriatrics and Chief of Palliative Medicine at EVMS.

“COVID 19 has changed healthcare in ways we never would have imagined,” Dr. Galicia-Castillo says. “Now, more than ever, it is important that you let your doctors know what matters most to you as we face the challenges of COVID19. Completing an advance care plan not only identifies who would speak for you if you were not able, but also guides your family and your doctors in selecting the treatment plans that best fit your goals and values.”

The Conversation Project, a non-profit organization, recommends the following three-step approach to creating an advanced care plan during COVID:

  • Pick the individual you want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself. Make sure that individual knows what matters most to you and then fill out an official form naming your healthcare decision maker.
  • Share your thoughts with family and loved ones. Be sure to communicate your wishes to your doctor.
  • Write down your preferences and your thoughts. For instance, what are you most worried about (being alone, being in pain, being a burden) if you become ill with COVID-19?

Sentara Healthcare and the Sentara Center for Healthcare Ethics offer the public an opportunity to complete their Advance Care Plan and register it, free of charge, with the national Advance Directive Registry through the U.S. Living Will Registry. Wherever you go in the U.S., your Advance Care Plan will be accessible by healthcare professionals when needed to guide your medical care if you are unable to communicate your wishes or make your own decisions. Learn more.