Are you ready for Christmas?

It’s a busy time of year in the church calendar as well as the secular calendar. Getting those two calendar listings to mesh into any sort of organized, manageable time frame can be challenging, to say the least. Family customs and new traditions often involve detailed plans all with a time deadline of December 24 and/or 25. Perhaps it’s your turn to host a large family gathering. Perhaps you have invited family and friends to join in a day of making cookies or even lefse! There are musical concerts, programs, events to add joy to the season – for both audience and participants. All these activities reflect spiritual beliefs, personal family values, customs and priorities.

This is surely a season that celebrates all that is good about family. We appreciate the positive results of time well spent in preparation; we credit ourselves and others for all the effort; we applaud success; all are blessed in the glow of Christmas. By the end of the Christmas season, perhaps one can even feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in packing away the last box of decorations. It was time and effort well spent. Can you apply the same planning and organizational urgency to another task that will be of benefit all year, every year?

The ultimate gift to your family is to put time and effort into planning and documenting your own wishes for healthcare decisions at the end of life. This is known as an advanced care directive; the process is also called Honoring Choices. Planning for future health care choices involves thinking about and discussing sensitive, personal and sometimes difficult situations. It is important to talk about your choices with those closest to you, so they know what your wishes are. Putting this in writing is called an Advanced Care Directive. It is a document that specifies your wishes for medical treatment in case you are unable to speak for yourself when that treatment is needed. A directive is intended for anyone 18 years of age and older; it should be shared with your medical care providers for them to keep on file with health records.

The best time to develop an advance care plan is now, not when faced with a crisis. As your parish nurse, Dorothy Ellerbroek is available to begin the conversation, answer questions and provide additional information. The process of creating an advance care plan is similar to planning for other important events, such as Christmas. Such healthcare conversation includes family values and beliefs. It does take time and effort, but is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your loved ones.