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Advance Care Planning Conversations Before the Crisis

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Categories: Senior Health
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Completing an advance directive can provide comfort and guidance to families during a health crisis. Learn about upcoming advance care planning workshops to guide you through the process.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

It's a subject many people are reluctant to discuss – the end of life.

Yet, it's a fact of life, and healthcare and legal professionals urge you to make your wishes known to avoid confusion and despair should you become gravely ill or critically injured.

Among the most important components of an advance directive — the document that states your wishes for end of life — is the healthcare power of attorney. In this document, you identify who you would want to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf if you became unable to do so. This person is also called your healthcare agent. Most people choose up to three different trusted individuals as agents in case the first or second agent is unavailable.

By naming a healthcare agent when you are healthy, you make sure that someone you trust is authorized to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become too ill or injured to speak for yourself. This person can be just about anyone and does not have to be a blood relative.

Living Will

A second important part of an advance directive—which sometimes stands alone— is the living will. Unlike an estate will, a living will covers the extent of care you would want to receive (or forgo) should you become unable to communicate your wishes yourself and have an end-stage medical condition or are permanently unconscious.

A living will spells out what kind of quality of life is acceptable to you, guiding loved ones and physicians to understand the motivation behind the choices you express within the document for future care. Drafting a living will while you are healthy can help alleviate some of the distress that occurs during an unexpected health crisis—your distress, but also that of loved ones and even medical professionals responsible for your care.

"When something like this happens, nobody knows what to do," says Steve Day, Jr., Esq., director of Risk and privacy officer at Doylestown Health. "A well done document clearly articulates your wishes to loved ones and doctors. This gives family members the comfort that they are fulfilling their loved one's wishes."

Doylestown Health has partnered with Looking Ahead, Inc. to offer ongoing education on advance care planning and personalized assistance from trained medical professionals to complete advance directives. In Pennsylvania, there are very few requirements when it comes to making an advance directive. You need to sign the document, have it witnessed, and be 18 or older. You can find sample forms on the Doylestown Health website, a fillable advance directive form on the Looking Ahead website, and there are numerous other options online.

You should give copies of the form to your primary healthcare provider, family members, and anyone else you would like to include (for example, clergy). When you send a copy to Medical Records at Doylestown Hospital, the document becomes part of your medical record.

Conversations Before the Crisis

The important thing to remember is to have these conversations with loved ones and medical care providers while you are still healthy. Doylestown Health and Looking Ahead make this easy with free education sessions, called My Wishes Workshops®, offered several times a month at two convenient locations in Doylestown and Warrington.

These workshops offer participants the opportunity to learn about advance care planning and begin the process of completing an advance directive.

Join us to learn what you need to know to develop an advance directive and how to start the dialogue. Advance care planning is deeply personal—it’s important that you make your preferences known.

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About Doylestown Health

Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 232 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.

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