Guest Commentary

Who will speak for you?

National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16


If you’ve ever had laryngitis, you understand how frustrating it can be to communicate even the simplest of ideas to another person. Usually, physical inflammation is short lived and normal conversations quickly resume. But what if you lost your voice in a more significant way? What if a serious illness or accident left you voiceless and unable to speak about the health care you want for yourself? Who would speak for you and what would they say?

These and other important questions are among those considered each year on April 16, National Healthcare Decisions Day. The founder of NHDD, Nathan Kottkamp, was inspired to create this nationwide campaign after repeatedly witnessing families and healthcare providers struggle to interpret the wishes of patients who had not made their healthcare preferences known through the Advance Care Directive document. Since its inception, NHDD has resulted in over one million healthcare providers receiving advance directives education, over half a million members of the public receiving education, and over 14,000 advance directives being completed. These statistics underscore the benefit of creating an advance directive.

The advance directive is a document that outlines your wishes for health care when you cannot communicate them directly and identifies someone to who will represent your wishes to your medical team. Creating an advance directive is crucial for several reasons. An advance directive can bring peace of mind to both you and your loved ones by documenting the decisions you want to be made on your behalf. For family members, making decisions for a loved one without knowing their wishes can be stressful. Advance directives reduce this burden by ensuring that decisions they need to make align with your preferences for end-of-life care. Advance directives are focused on quality of life and can help avoid unnecessary hospitalization, ineffective treatments, and enabling you or your loved one to benefit from hospice care. And advance directives are legally recognized documents that allow you to appoint a healthcare agent to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. While they are not legally binding, healthcare providers will strive to respect your wishes outlined in the directive.

On Tuesday, consider starting this conversation for yourself and with your loved ones to plan for the circumstance of not being able to communicate emergency or end-of-life preferences to one another. Learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day by visiting The Conversation Project ( or the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization ( Be sure your voice is heard when you need it most.


Owner of Crawfordsville-based Quest for Balance Wellness, Jai Miranda is a professionally certified grief coach, educator, and advance care planner who has served individuals and families for 20 years. Learn more at