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By Bonnie Sheeren
Learn more about Bonnie on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor
As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” While many of us strategize extensively for the best possible tax advantages to allow us to manage our finances and live the life we prefer, almost three quarters of us don’t have adequate health care strategies relative to those same goals.
With that in mind, once people have wrapped up their income tax filing on April 15, an initiative to help bring awareness to advanced health care planning will occur April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day.
According to NerdWallet Health, most personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to health care costs. That fact alone makes it important that we all have plans in place.
With an advanced health care directive, we can specify our wishes for our medical care whatever scenario may arise. In addition, we can designate whom we want to speak for us if we cannot do so. Without these plans in place, our health care dollars might go toward tests and treatments we don’t want or need.
One factor holding people back from writing an advanced directive might be that the health care world can be intimidating, with medical jargon and new technologies clouding the picture. Fortunately, a new type of consultant — a patient advocate, who has experience in shared decision-making — can help guide clients through difficult choices. An advocate helps take a person’s goals and wishes and aligns them with the latest research and information from the medical world.
For instance, a person who loves to travel or enjoys outdoor activities might want medical care and treatment to allow her to continue what she loves to do as long as possible. A patient advocate can definitely help in these circumstances.
With these preferences clearly stated in an advanced health directive, our values and goals will be clarified to help us when we have to wrestle with any health care question. We can then communicate those to our health care proxy — the person or persons who will speak to our doctors and other health care providers to ensure that our wishes are carried out in case we cannot express them ourselves.
After wrapping up our taxes, focusing on an advanced health care directive means we will have done our best to put both sides of our financial houses in order.
There are many useful resources on the National Healthcare Decisions Day website. Start the conversation and make an advanced directive — down the road, it will be worth the time and effort to allow us to have the greatest chance to lead life on our own terms.
Find more information on patient advocates at NerdWallet.