Most people have some idea of how they would like to die — perhaps peacefully in their sleep or surrounded by loved ones. Unfortunately, most people also have not taken the necessary steps to ensure their wishes will be followed.

April 16 is the fifth annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, an initiative dedicated to ensuring all adults discuss and document their healthcare wishes now, while they’re healthy and able.

“As a society, we pride ourselves in being busy.  We often use time as an excuse for putting off uncomfortable conversations and decisions,” said Katie McIntyre, Iowa liaison for National Healthcare Decisions Day and community relations coordinator for HCI Care Services.  “National Healthcare Decisions Day is a great opportunity to think about how you would want – or not want – to be treated should you no longer be able to speak for yourself.  By completing an advance directive, you can give your loved ones the peace of mind of knowing they are doing what you would have wanted.”

To inspire Iowans to start these conversations, HCI Care Services is sponsoring  Consider the Conversation: A Documentary on a Taboo Subject, which Iowa Public Television will broadcast Sunday, April 8 at 1 p.m. and 11 p.m.  The award-winning, thought-provoking film highlights end-of-life issues from a variety of perspectives.

HCI Care Services is also providing free resources to help people talk about healthcare wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers, and to execute written advance directives (healthcare power of attorney and living will) in accordance with Iowa state laws.  Visit or call 641-856-5502 for a free advance directive planning packet.

Advance directives come in two main forms.  A "healthcare power of attorney" ("proxy" or "agent" or "surrogate") documents the person selected to be the voice for healthcare decisions if the individual is no longer able to communicate.  And a "living will" (or “healthcare treatment directive”) documents the types of medical treatments he or she would or would not want at the end of life.

It is important to note that advance directives only go into effect if the patient is no longer able to make decisions. Copies of these documents should be given to doctors, family members and close friends, as appropriate.  They can be changed or canceled at any time but are virtually useless if no one knows about them when the need arises.  

For 34 years, HCI Care Services (formerly known as Hospice of Central Iowa) has provided, comfort, dignity and peace of mind for those facing serious illnesses. As an independent, not-for-profit organization, HCI Care Services is committed to providing excellent hospice, palliative and private in-home care to patients and compassionate support for their families in 35 counties, whether they live at home, in assisted living facilities, in nursing care facilities, hospitals or our residential hospice facilities, the Kavanagh Houses. To learn more, please call (641) 856-5502 or visit

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