Few may care to think about it, but local hospitals and other health officials believe determining how to handle end-of-life care is a necessary step as people approach the later years of life.
Hospitals and organizations are offering resources for living wills, advance directives and medical power of attorney documents in light of National Health Care Decisions Day, which is today.
Such steps are intended to help direct care after a person is unable to make his or her own decisions.
"Would you want a feeding tube? Would you want to live on life support machines? Would you want them to do CPR or shock you? These are all important decisions," said Brenda Young, palliative care nurse patient advocate at Thomas Memorial Hospital.
"An advance directive is your living will. It's your decisions made in advance for when you no longer have a voice - whether you're injured or ill and cannot make those decisions for yourself. You appoint somebody in advance to make decisions for you and honor your choices."
Thomas will host its observance of the annual initiative from 9 to 11 a.m. today in its medical pavilion. No appointments are necessary, and there is no cost to fill out the forms.
"We will be doing advance directives and talking to anybody who is interested in them," Young said. "If people complete the forms, we will notarize them and put them on file on the e-Directory, which can be accessed from anywhere in the state.
"If you are anywhere and need the advance directives - maybe you left them at home - you can call the West Virginia e-Directory."
Charleston Area Medical Center staff members will discuss health decisions at the monthly mall walkers meeting at 8:30 a.m. today in Center Court at Charleston Town Center. Participants are people 45 or older who walk laps in the mall in the early morning hours.
CAMC began a partnership with the mall a few months ago to reach the nearly 7 million people who visit Town Center each year with important health information.
"It's something patients don't want to think about. Regardless of age, they need to make sure family is aware of their wishes," said Ashley Showen, who works in CAMC's marketing department.
"We will provide the mall walkers with several resources and have sample forms for them to fill out with family."
Showen said participants would be encouraged to take the forms home and complete them with their families. The forms can be returned at HealthFest on June 1, when notaries will be available.
The mall walker program is free and open to the community. Participants are given a free parking pass to use between 7 and 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The group meets at 8:30 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in Center Court.