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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

College students, proclaim your independence in your health care

College is the time to spread our wings, gain independence and discover who we are. However, sometimes the unexpected occurs and changes plans. More often than not, we are not prepared for that and we find ourselves in trouble. This happens because we spend too much time planning one day at a time and don’t stop to think about the “what-ifs.”

As The Band Perry says in their hit song, “If I Die Young,” “A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I’ll sell them for a dollar. They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner.” Your words, thoughts and wishes are invaluable when you’re no longer able to speak for yourself. You deserve to be your own health care decision-maker. When the unexpected requires urgent medical attention, the best plan is to have advance directives in place. If college is the time for people to gain independence, then they can start by filling out an advance directive.

Advance care planning involves making health care choices, executing advance directives and informing our loved ones. Completion of an advance directive enables an individual to state his or her wishes for care, even during a period of incapacity such as after unexpected illness or accident or at the end of life. Now is the time to engage in these important conversations with loved ones and legally document your medical care choices. Talking about your end-of-life-care decisions is one of the most important things you can do, and it is never too early for anyone to start the conversation.

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners has declared April to be “National Healthcare Decisions Month.” UF, UF Health, Haven Hospice, LifeQuest Organ Recovery Service and other organizations across Alachua County have planned activities to show how these conversations can make a difference.

Interactive “Before I Die” walls will be installed at the Reitz Union, Bo Diddley Community Plaza, Depot Park and UF Health Sun Terrace among other locations. The walls are public art projects that enable people to express their creativity and jot down bucket-list items. Postcards at the sites will encourage participants to document their medical preferences.

A group of about 70 UF students dedicated to raising the advance directives completion rate have volunteered to construct the walls around Gainesville. They will study the likelihood that adults who visit the walls proceed to document their health care decisions by completing advance directives.

National Healthcare Decisions Day is celebrated April 16, right after Tax Day because only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. This is the day the Reitz Union’s “Before I Die” wall will be up for participants to start writing. Students are encouraged to take this interactive activity to really think about how they want their health care decisions handled in cases of emergency.

April 30 is the last day students can participate in the Reitz Union wall, but there will also be a lawyer present near the wall all day to answer any questions and help students fill out advance directives on the spot.

On April 23, an interdisciplinary panel at the Alachua County Senior Recreation Center will also help citizens seeking assistance in the completion of advance directives. If you’d like to attend this forum, call 352-265-9040.

Visit ufhealth.org/advance-directives to find details about this month’s activities and more about advance care planning or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/gnvNHDD/. If you have any further questions, you can reach out to Anne Meiring at meiria@shands.ufl.edu.

Do you really want your mom and dad still making decisions about your health care?

April is the month for independence.

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Now is the time.

Veronika Vernachio is a UF Health intern. This is a guest column.

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