June 6, 2017

It’s Time to Talk – Have a Conversation with Your Family about an Advance Directive

An advance directive is essential in ensuring that you will have the medical treatment and quality of life you desire if you are an unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself. However, many people hold off getting an advance directive because of misconceptions, said Dylan Babb, Community Outreach Manager for CarePartners. The most common myths are:

  • An advance directive is a complicated legal document that requires a lawyer
  • An advance directive is only for someone in poor health or near the end of life
  • Conversations with loved ones about end-of-life decisions are too uncomfortable

Dispelling the Myths

In reality, an advance directive is a simple legal document. “It’s for all adults,” said Babb. “If you’re over age 18, you should get one.”

Babb also pointed out that an advance directive can be completed in just a few steps. “You don’t have to hire an attorney, you just have to fill out the form with two witnesses present, and have it notarized,” she said.

Before you get an advance directive, however, you should first consider what types of life-prolonging treatments you may or may not want if you’re ever unable to make your own healthcare decisions. And then you should think seriously about who you want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This person will be your power of attorney.

Your power of attorney may be a spouse or an adult child, but doesn’t have to be. The key is to select the person you trust most to speak for you, said Babb.

Having the Conversation

Conversations about end-of-life wishes are not the easiest, but they don’t have to be uncomfortable either. “Talking to your family or friends about advance directives and power of attorney doesn’t have to be a sobfest,” said Babb. “It can be a loving conversation about your desire to live the best life you can.”

If you’re unsure about how to broach the topic with your loved ones, The Conversation Project (theconversationproject.org) is a great online resource for tips on discussing an advance directive and other end-of-life topics. You can also contact Mountain Coalition forHealth Care Decisions locally.

Making It Official

You can fill out an advance directive at CarePartners or at Mission Hospital. Babb recommended calling ahead or making an appointment so that those preparing the form can ensure the appropriate witnesses are present and that someone is available to walk you through the form.

Completing an advance directive will bring both you and your family peace of mind. “Advance directives are part of good planning,” said Babb. “We spend our lives planning for our futures. This is just another way to do that.”

Getting Help

There are community resources to help you learn more about advance care planning and how to complete the necessary documents. Join CarePartners at the Community ACP Clinic on the fourth Tuesday of the month at the West Asheville Library, from 6 to 7:30 pm. For more information, contact Dylan Babb at (828) 775-7111 or dylan.babb@msj.org.

Dylan Babb is Community Outreach Manager for CarePartners.

Considering palliative or hospice care? To learn more about CarePartners Hospice Services, call (828) 255-0231.