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Right now, bills are pending in the House and Senate that would help to do so. One would increase the amount of palliative care faculty in America’s medical schools, nursing programs and other educational-training facilities. The goal of this legislation is to create a population of health care providers and medical workers who are trained in advance care planning, communication skills and care coordination for patients with serious, life-threatening or terminal illnesses.
Separately, the Personalize Your Care Act of 2013 would provide many Americans with coverage for voluntary advance care planning. This bill would provide important resources to those who might be most at need of advance care planning, and it takes steps to ensure that health care providers play a role in those specific conversations and directives.
These bills recognize the value of thorough planning to individuals to their families and to the system overall. Importantly, by driving attention to end-of-life decisions, they are encouraging increased dialogue at all levels.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to advance care planning. Each process and each decision reflects an individual’s family relationships, personal faith, financial priorities, health status and more.
The only common truth is that advance care planning cannot occur too early, but it can happen too late.
Don Schumacher is the president and CEO of National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.