The Power of One: Have the Conversation, Make Your Plans

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Ten years ago, attorney and social entrepreneur Nathan Kottkamp took a bold step toward populating the advance care planning conversation in communities across the United States. The prevalence of death-denying attitudes led him to launch the National Healthcare Decisions Day, a week-long, nationwide conversation that will take place from April 16-22.

Locally, ABODE Contemplative Care for the Dying will host an event in partnership with The Final Acts Project. The event, titled “Planning Your 4th Quarter: Lessons from ABODE Home in honor of the National Healthcare Decisions Week,” will take place at Brown Hall at the Episcopal Church of Reconciliation on April 20 from 1-3 p.m.

A “Bucket List Party” will follow from 2-3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Kottkamp’s move was ambitious as the topic of end of life was, and still is, considered by many to be a taboo subject. In creating this national conversation around advance care planning, Kottkamp struck at the taproot of one of our nation’s greatest challenges.

The power of an end of life conversation cannot be overstated. National Healthcare Decisions Week has proven that one person can make a difference, and the movement has grown with each passing year. Now supported enthusiastically by national partnerships across the U.S., Kottkamp laid the groundwork for those of us working in the field of advance care planning.

The Final Acts Project, a Texas-based nonprofit that focuses on advance care planning conversations using theatre, creative arts, and humanities, is promoting this important week-long event through partnerships across the state. We urge everyone to get involved in the planning conversation with family and friends, and through common communities of faith and work. Make it a priority to review the steps you can take to host your own advance care planning conversation, a bucket list party, or simply have a leisurely conversation over a cup of coffee.

You also can ask family members to “gift” you an advance care planning conversation. Each year for my birthday, I ask my grown children to gift me one component of planning they have in place. One year, I requested that each one of my kids verify they had a life insurance policy. Another year it was all about starting a long-term investment strategy for themselves and their children. This year I’m asking them to complete their advance directives and share them with the family so we can know everyone’s wishes and values.

I would never ask them to do what I have not already done for myself. My birthday will arrive soon enough, and I will gladly share my birthday cake with them if they can demonstrate the completion of their advance directives. Some may see this as a bribe – and perhaps it is – but more than anything it is a simple gift request that will benefit the entire family.

To learn more about what you can do to have a caring conversation with family and friends, or to host an event during National Healthcare Decisions week this year, click here.

If you belong to a faith community, consider asking your faith leaders to participate in the advance care planning conversation with their congregants in order to make sharing wishes and values with family, friends, and even colleagues more routine.

No matter where we live, work, and pray, we all share a common interest in planning for a good ending and helping ourselves and those we care about. It is the very least we can do as compassionate humans.

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