Today is National Health Care Decisions Day, featuring a free public program at Brookside Care Center.

The main idea behind this “celebration” is helping people realize that having your final wishes written down on paper means your loved ones won’t have to make wrenching choices while you’re lying unconscious in a hospital.

Today’s program will feature a video message recorded by musician Graham Nash, a longtime friend of Helen Sampson, the quality coordinator with Kenosha County’s Aging and Disability Resource Center and one of the event’s organizers.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and former member of the Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash is a perfect fit for this program, she said, because “he wants to do good, and I create opportunities for him to do that.”

The video, featuring Nash and Sampson talking about today’s program — which will focus on the importance of completing power of attorney for health care forms — was filmed last month in Chicago, where Nash was performing.

Those forms will be available at the event and should be filled out and kept somewhere safe and accessible.

Dying done right

Rita Hagen, executive director of Hospice Alliance, is also a member of the Kenosha County Care Transitions Coalition, which organizes the local Health Care Decisions Day program.

Hagen said the group, which includes representatives from nursing homes, hospitals, home care groups and pharmacies, has been around since about 2011 and is working to get more people to fill out these advanced directives.

She stresses that end-of-life planning “isn’t just an old person’s thing. Bad things can happen to young people, too.”

Hagen worked as a nurse in a hospital for several years “and you see people come in and get hooked up to machines,” she said. “It’s hard to stop all that once it has started.”

It’s important, she said, for people to “have the conversation with their family members and make sure your end-of-life wishes are known.”

She realizes, “This is a difficult subject for most people to talk about. It’s an uncomfortable thing. Keep this in mind: We hope you’ll be around for a long time, but it’s best to be prepared.”

To complete the paperwork, you need to designate two people as “heath care agents” to make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

It can be a relative, a friend, a neighbor or someone from your church, Hagen said.

“Think of someone who is good in a crisis,” she advises.

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