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The Importance of Advance Care Planning

The Importance of Advance Care Planning

nurse and elderly womanDid you know that in a past study conducted by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, less than 50% of terminally ill patients had and advance directive in their medical records?

Today, April 16th, has been designated as National Healthcare Decisions Day. All adults can benefit from discussing and identifying the healthcare choices they want made should they be unable to do so on their own. Most can utilize an advanced directive so that loved ones as well as medical professionals are aware of their desires.

There are two types of Advance Directives: a living will and medical power of attorney.

Living Will

A living will is a legal document that allows someone to control his/her wishes for medical treatment at the end of life. It covers health care decisions when they are terminally ill or permanently unconscious and unable to make decisions on their own. State laws vary on the exact terms of a living will, but they are generally designed to allow doctors to stop the process of prolonging life.

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney legally allows a person to name someone else who is designated to make decisions about their medical care should they become temporarily or permanently unable to express those wishes on their own. Many people may have both a living will and a medical power of attorney directive. The medical power of attorney is able to make decisions that were not addressed in the living will.

Talking about advance directives is an important part of the caregiving process, particularly in hospice care. Educating your patients about their desires can help to empower them about their health care choices. The internet has a number of fantastic resources available to families and caregivers who are interested in learning more about advance directives as well as communicating end-of-life wishes including:

The Conversation Project
Dedicated to aiding families in discussing their wishes for end-of-life care and treatment.

Caring Connections from NHPCO
From the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, provides free advance directives and instructions for each state

End-of-life planning guidance and advice for families

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