Imagine…you are in the hospital and you can’t speak for yourself. Who will speak for you? With an advance directive, your loved ones are empowered to make choices about your health care, and can act with the knowledge that they are following your wishes. An advance directive is a document that states a person’s choices for medical treatment and/or names a health care agent, usually a family member or close friend.
April 16 marks National Health Decisions Day (NHDD), when people are encouraged, regardless of age or health status, to create an advance directive. The task is surprisingly simple. But while 90 percent of Americans have heard of advance directives, only 29 percent have them. The staff at Door County Medical Center want to help change this, by offering free counseling, to help individuals create their advance directives.
“An advance directive makes your health care and end-of-life wishes known, including medical, emotional and spiritual care,” says Katie Graf, social worker at DCMC. “But it also relieves the burden on family members,” she says. “Too often, we see cases of people hospitalized or on life support who don’t have this document, forcing the family to petition the court for guardianship of their own loved one.” This is both a financial and emotional burden on the family.
While nobody goes out of their way to discuss end-of-life care, Graf says the best time to plan is when you are healthy. “We encourage families to discuss end-of-life wishes and create advance directives when they are together. This could be around the dinner table or when a family is on a vacation together.” But to be legally valid, advance directives must be written down and witnessed. Copies of your advance directive should be given to your doctor and your health care agent, and stored in an easily accessible place.
Here are some ways to get help with an advance directive:
- Any day of the year, Call DCMC at 920.743.5566 and ask to speak with a social worker or chaplain, who are available 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.
- April 26th from 2-4 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, DCMC staff will present a program on advance directives through Aging Mastery Program. Contact the Door County Senior Center for more information.
- Visit nhdd.org for more information.