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Have You Had Any of the 5 D’s?

If so, it’s time to update your Advance Medical Directive

By Trena Winans, Senior Services Education & Community Outreach Director

Many people get an Advance Medical Directive drawn up with their lawyer, but all too often it is incomplete, not where it needs to be, or has not been discussed in depth with family members. Even if all those other pieces are in place, sometimes people forget to update the document when one of the 5 D’s has occurred.5 Ds

Divorce: If the person you named as your Health Care Advocate is a former spouse, you may no longer feel they are the best one to speak on your behalf in a medical emergency. Your Health Care Advocate should really be someone you trust to follow your wishes. You may trust your ex, but it is worth considering if they are still
your best choice.

Diagnosis: If you received a diagnosis of a chronic condition or cancer, you may want to revisit your instructions in light of complications that you now know are possible or likely to occur.

Decline in Health: Similarly, if you or your Advocate have experienced a decline in general health or cognitive function, it is a good time to reflect on the choices you made previously and see if they fit your new situation.

Death: It is shocking how often medical professionals find that the designated Health Care Advocate passed away before the person they were supposed to speak for. If your Advocate or successor advocates are now deceased, it is important to re-do your document. Even if someone other than your advocate but significant to you has passed away, the experience may have changed what your own wishes are for care.

Decade: Plan to review at least once every 10 years. Is the person you chose still able and willing to speak with YOUR voice to implement your wishes? Have your wishes changed? What is important to you at 60 years of age may have completely changed by the time you are 70. Revisit your goals, values and wishes.

Perhaps most importantly, talk about what you want with all those close to you. Have the conversation and have it again and again. Advance Medical Directives are about how you want to LIVE until the end of your life. Make sure to give the gift of understanding and legal tools to act on it to those who love you. Then distribute those forms to your doctor, your advocates, your hospital/s, and keep a card with you telling where the original is located. (Hint: do NOT keep it in a bank safety deposit box) Properly creating, revising, distributing, and discussing your Advance Medical Directive is a gift to yourself and those you love!