The Truth About Advanced Directives

Over the last few months, many have participated in a game called “My Gift of Grace”. My group used it to open up some great discussions on different topics. Many of the topics had us reminiscing about past memories as well as addressing some tough subjects regarding health and legal issues faced during our later years.

The game flowed wonderfully into our November educational session: “The Truth About Advanced Directives” — “What are MY Options?” with speaker Ron Zack, an elder law attorney with the Udall Law Firm of Tucson. So what exactly are Advanced Directives and why do we need them? Known as Life Care Planning documents, Health Care Directives or Advanced Directives, these forms are important for directing your choices about health care. Distributed during the session was an information packet from the office of the Arizona Attorney General, Mark Brnovich. Here’s how he defines Life Care Planning in his introduction. “All states have laws that allow us to make future health care treatment decisions now so that if we become incapacitated and unable to make these decisions later, our family and doctors will know what medical care we want or do not want. State laws also allow us to appoint a person to make future health care treatment decisions for us if we become incapacitated, since we cannot predict what future decisions might be necessary. These laws are called ‘advance directives’ or ‘health care directives.’” There’s a lot of information in this packet – contact SNAP if you want a copy or go to http://www.azag.gov and search under Life Care Planning.

In addition to Advanced Directives, Ron Zack reviewed other legal documents that should be in place and reviewed every 2 to 3 years; these include Last Will and Testament, Living Wills, Trust Agreements, Powers of Attorney and HIPAA Authorization. Preparation for all these documents takes much time and thought and should be discussed with family members. As older adults, this is our “homework” – truly a gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones in the form of peace of mind.

Recommended Reading that may help in this process: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.