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SDSU Extension, College of Nursing Encourage Timely Talks This Holiday Season

BROOKINGS, S.D. - With the holiday season rapidly approaching and many families planning to get together to celebrate religious and cultural traditions, South Dakota State University (SDSU) experts say it may be a good time to also have some difficult conversations on advance care planning.

“For many of us, the holiday season is a special time of year when we celebrate the religious and cultural traditions of our family, and we teach those traditions to the young people in our family so they can continue these when our time in this life ends,” says Leacey E. Brown, SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist. “What you may not realize is that your religious and cultural traditions influence advance care planning.”

This year SDSU Extension and the SDSU College of Nursing are encouraging families to talk about advance care planning. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, only one out of three South Dakotans report that they have an advance directive.

“With so few South Dakotans having completed their advance directives, this is concerning,” says Theresa Garren-Grubbs, SDSU Clinical Assistant Professor for Undergraduate Nursing. “This means that many South Dakotans do not know what type of medical care their loved ones would like to receive in a life-threatening situation.”

In addition to talking to family members and religious/spiritual leaders, Garren-Grubbs and Brown encourage individuals to visit the SDSU Extension Advance Care Planning for Rural Families page to learn about the four advance care planning conversations that all adults should have with their friends and family.

“Theresa and I would like to see more families engaged in advance care planning conversations. The consequences of not having these conversations are dire,” Brown says. “Discussing healthcare decisions with family ensures medical actions align with your personal goals and priority, particularly in crisis situations when you are unable to communicate.”

Not only is having this discussion important, Garren-Grubbs says it’s critical to pick someone who has similar religious and spiritual beliefs to be a decision maker to avoid conflicts.

“It is never too early to have these conversations,” Garren-Grubbs says. “Life can change in the blink of an eye, and it is important to be prepared to make decisions for a loved one if necessary.”