GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – April is National Healthcare Decisions Month, a time dedicated to people talking through difficult medical decisions before they are unable to make the decision for themselves.

Both ECU Health and Pitt County Council on Aging said people need to plan for advanced care.

“We are a rather death-defying nation, we don’t think we’re going to die, we think it’s optional, so it’s really important we get these discussions there,” said ECU Health Outreach and Education Coordinator for Advance Care Planning Vicki Dougherty.

Those with Pitt County Council on Aging said people should make a plan for end of life.

“Advanced-care planning is about getting what you want, so others don’t make a decision about what they think you want,” said Executive Director Pitt County Council on Aging, Rich Zeck.

Advanced directives are the instructions for the type of care a person may want later.

“There are really two important pieces of it,” Dougherty said. “One is the healthcare power of attorney and that tells us who is going to be your voice if you’re not able to speak for yourself and then the living will which tells us what kind of care you would want if doctors agreed you were not going to get better.”

Zeck added that advanced care planning helps both loved ones and healthcare providers.

“You are showing your love for the people who remain behind by doing everything for them, making those tough choices,” Zeck said. “Healthcare professionals, they don’t want the burden of having to make the decision for you. If you already had advance planning and directives in place, there’s no questions. It takes the emotions and feelings out of making very difficult decisions.”

If a person does not make a plan for advance care, Zeck said, default plans go into effect.

“For example, if you have a DNR, a Do Not Resuscitate, and you don’t have a directive that says that, then the healthcare professionals will do everything in their power to resuscitate you and prolong your life, which is not what you wanted,” Zeck said.

But at what age should someone start planning for advanced care?

“What day do you start dying? You’re never too young. They can always change; you can always amend your requests. You know, people die at all ages, and nobody wants to believe that only old people will pass. All people pass,” Zeck said.

Dougherty agreed. She said all people over the age of 18 should make advance care plans.

“Everyone over the age of 18 needs to have an advance directive in place,” Dougherty said. “We need to know. Nobody knows what’s going to happen when. We all know that things happen pretty abruptly or surprised often. So, it’s best if you have these discussions ahead of time.”

For more information on advance care planning with ECU Health, click here.

To learn more about Pitt County Council on Aging, click here.