Tis The Season For Planning, Preparedness And Peace

Tis The Season For Planning, Preparedness And Peace
by Donna Smith
Compassion & Choices African American Outreach Director
This holiday season will be unlike any other in history. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit our community especially hard and has exposed to the general public what we’ve long known to be true: The systemic bias in our healthcare system leads to worse health outcomes for communities of color.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, African Americans are four times as likely to be hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection than whites. Shelby County Department of Health statistics show that while Black people make up 52% of the county population, they represent 64% of deaths from the coronavirus, This pandemic is also taking an emotional toll on our community by isolating us from friends and family in order to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe. And the financial toll of the pandemic has added extra pressure during the holidays, which are already hard for some of us.
There are times when I am simply overwhelmed with the lasting effects of racism on our communities and our very bodies.
We must continue to hold the medical establishment accountable for their lack of cultural competence and the history of discrimination against patients of color. We will also advocate that those in power enact laws and policies that address these disparities. And we will use our power to vote out and replace those who won’t take action.
The Gift Of Preparedness
While we take these larger actions, there are things we can do as a community, as families, and as individuals to ensure better healthcare outcomes right now and in the future.
We can as a community commit to educating ourselves on the issues, thereby empowering us to be our own best advocates. Learn about advanced planning, how to determine what treatments we want or don’t want, how to decide who will speak for us should we become too sick or injured to speak for ourselves.
We can better prepare ourselves and our families for situations beyond our control. Make sure we have wills, living wills, life and health insurance documents properly filled out and recorded.
Take the time to talk with your family about what you’d want and what they’d want in a medical emergency. The time to have these needed conversations are not in the ER, when no one is in the right mind to make decisions. The time to have these conversations is when you are in reasonable health and in a non-crisis situation, where people can have dialogue and ask questions in the hope that they will all be on the same page about their loved one’s priorities.
Every one of us should also fill out an Advanced Health Care Directive- this document allows one to determine what their wants and needs are if they are unable to make their own healthcare decisions. It also allows them to share with family and friends and appoint a healthcare proxy to speak for them.
If you or your loved ones see a doctor, ask for second and third opinions if necessary. Without your guidance, the doctors and nurses may take actions that are against your wishes or values. Your advanced directive and other documents will guide you and make sure the patient’s wishes come first.
Many of us love the holidays because it’s a chance to demonstrate our love for our families and our community. We plan and prepare our homes for guests, put out our decorations, and host feasts fit for the kings and queens in our lives. We take the time to plan because when the holiday arrives we want to be able to enjoy the time and be in the moment with our loved ones.
It’s the same with planning for our own end-of-life care. Planning and preparing our loved ones for the inevitable end helps them find peace when we are no longer there for them. Knowing that they fulfilled our wishes will be of some comfort when we are no longer there to comfort them. ‘Tis the season to provide the gifts of peace, planning and preparation.

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