Today is the fifth annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, which emphasizes advance care decision-making.

All adults can benefit from thinking about what their health care choices would be if they are unable to speak for themselves, the NHDD coalition says. These decisions can be written down in an advance directive so that others know what they are. 

Those directives come in two forms: A health care power of attorney, which documents the person you select to be your voice for your health care decisions if you cannot speak for yourself; and a living will that states what kinds of medical treatments you would or would not want at the end of life.

In accordance with the April 16 date, organizations such as the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization are stressing the importance of advance health care planning.

“On a daily basis, hospice and palliative care providers witness families who have benefited from talking about their loved one’s wishes at life’s end and also see how challenging it can be when those conversations never happened,” says J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. “For those who have taken the time to have thoughtful conversations—often long before a serious illness might be an issue—there can be much reassurance and comfort in knowing what is important to a loved one.”

Thinking about what would be important to you in a medical crisis and making your wishes known to loved ones is what National Healthcare Decisions Day is all about—regardless of age or health status, the organization says.

“You should not assume that your doctor or even your close family members know what your health care priorities are,” Schumacher says. “Some people facing a life-limiting illness would want to avail themselves of all possible treatments while others would choose to focus on quality of life, seeking hospice and palliative care services.”