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The Importance of a Health Care Directive

Gavel and Stethoscope on Gradated Background with Selective Focus.

Even though death is a very natural, inevitable part of life, we are often reluctant to think about it. Due to that reluctance, many of us fail to plan for end-of life issues. However, leaving everything up in the air is a big risk to take! If you take the time to prepare an Advance Health Care Directive now, you can ensure that your future medical care is in line with your values and preferences.

An Advance Health Care Directive is a legal document that provides your doctor and loved ones with instructions for your care, in the event that you are unable to communicate your own wishes at some point. It will only take effect under the conditions you outline in the document, so you don’t need to worry about it ever superseding your wishes.

Appoint a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Your Advance Health Care Directive gives you the opportunity to appoint a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, also called a Health Care Proxy, who will have the legal authority to make health care decisions for you. Many people name their spouse; however, you should also consider a back-up proxy just in case you and your spouse become ill around the same time.

Provide specific instructions for your health care. There is no need to simply hand over the authority to make decisions for you, though. Your Advance Health Care Directive allows you to state in clear, medical terms which types of life-prolonging treatments you do and do not want to receive. You may also state your wishes regarding pain relief, organ donation, and many other important medical issues. Your proxy will communicate these preferences to your medical team, and ensure that they are carried out.

An Advance Health Care Directive can prevent disputes during an already difficult time, and provide your loved ones with peace of mind knowing that they made the decisions you would have wanted.  Remember: If at any point your wishes change, you are certainly allowed to alter your documents.

If you are interested in learning more about completing an Advance Health Care Directive please plan to join us on March 15th at the Temecula Valley Hospital from 6-8pm for a screening of the PBS Frontline Documentary “Being Mortal”.  This documentary is based on the end of life experiences of several patients and addresses the importance of talking about end-of-life care goals with your family and medical providers.

Following the film we will have a Q&A session led by Laurence Boggeln, Chief of Staff of Temecula Valley Hospital and Leslee B. Cochrane, MD., Executive Medical Director for Hospice of the Valleys who will be available to interact with the audience and answer questions. During the event we will also be distributing a complimentary copy of “Five Wishes” to attendees. “Five Wishes” is a living will, valid under California state law that talks about your personal, emotional and spiritual needs, as well as your medical wishes. The do-it-yourself format is simple and easy to use and enables you to complete your Advance Health Care Directive in the privacy of your own home

For more information please visit Hospice of the Valleys’ website at www.HospiceoftheValleys.org for future screenings.

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