Let's Talk Turkey
There's never a good time to talk about. But taking the time when the family gathers for a holiday is a good opportunity.
"It" is advance directives -- instructions to your family in the event you become incapacitated. Wishes, values and preferences. The Massachusetts health care proxy allows you to express so that if something should happen to incapacitate you, your wishes, values and preferences for medical treatment would be honored.
With families around the country gathering for Thanksgiving, the Commonwealth has seized the opportunity by designating the Friday after the holiday as Massachusetts' Advance Directive Day.
BIDMC has its own version of this campaign called Let's Talk Turkey. The idea is to educate staff, patients, and families visiting the medical center about the importance of filling out a proxy or advance directive with loved ones.
"We need to set the example. If we are encouraging patients to fill this out, we also should complete one," says Stephen O'Neill, LICSW, Social Work Manager for Psychiatry and Primary Care and Assistant Director of Ethics Support Service. "This is not for older people or end of life care. Anybody should have a proxy at any age."
Let's Talk Turkey, launched in 1999, is jointly sponsored by the Department of Social Work and Ethics Support Service.
O'Neill points to the results of a staff survey taken last year to prove that the initiative is working. Each year, BIDMC's campaign leads to the distribution of 1,000 advanced directive packets. The survey revealed that 52 percent of staff had not designated a health care proxy. O'Neill says of the 48 percent of respondents who had designated a proxy, 31 percent of them said Talk Turkey events influenced their decision to complete an advance directive.
The materials handed out during Talk Turkey include an explanation of what completing an advance directive means and who should be chosen as your health care agent. O'Neill says sometimes choosing the person closest to you, like your spouse, is not always the best decision. "You want your health care agent to carry out your wishes," O'Neill says. "But sometimes they love you so much that they can't do what you want."
Once you complete your proxy, O'Neill recommends making several copies of it so that you, your health care agent and your primary care physician all have it on file.