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What is an advance directive?

Posted on Apr. 16, 2019 ( comments)

Do you and your loved one have an advance directive? What about power of attorney?

Ever been asked those questions in a health care crisis? That’s the situation Lori Olson, Palliative Care Coordinator at MultiCare Health System, encourages adults to prepare for. That way you don’t have to make those kinds of important decisions in the middle of a difficult situation.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, which exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.

We talked to Olson to learn more about what patients can do to be prepared for those difficult decisions.

What is an advance directive? Is this different from a living will?

An advance directive has two parts — the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and the health care directive. The health care directive, otherwise known as a living will, is a legal document that outlines what treatments you would or would not want if you were permanently unconscious or not expected to recover.

What is Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

It’s a legal document that names your health care agent (or power of attorney) who can make health care decisions for you if you cannot.

A health care agent/power of attorney is a person you choose to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to. Both your health care agent and advance directive would only be put into action if you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself.

When should you put together an advance directive?

Everyone over the age of 18 should have one. Consider completing one as a “gift” to your family members.

The time is now instead of waiting for a health care crisis. It’s important to talk to your loved ones and communicate your wishes now. And it’s OK to change your mind at some point — just make sure to update your documents.

Be sure to share your advance directive with your loved ones, doctor and hospital.

How do you prepare an advance directive? Where do you go for resources?

Advance directives can be completed without an attorney. I’d encourage everyone to start by talking with their primary care provider about creating an advance directive.

MultiCare also partners with an organization called Honoring Choices PNW, which is an initiative of the Washington State Hospital Association and the Washington State Medical Association. You can even find a downloadable document to complete an advance directive.

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