The Significance of Keeping Health Care Directives Current

An advance health care directive – often called a living will – is a document in which you clearly define your health care wishes, should you be unable to speak for yourself. While most people imagine they will not need a living will until they are older and unable to articulate their own wishes, the need for an advance care directive could present at any time with a sudden accident or an unexpected illness. Therefore, maintaining an up-to-date advance directive will give you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out. 

Making plans now

BCHIP offers a free advance care planning consultation for Bucks County residents.  Our team helps you walk through all the questions you should consider when developing your plan. These questions include what kind of life-sustaining medical care you would like to have and under what conditions; whether or not you want to donate your organs; what you consider an acceptable quality of life; and any other instructions from the perspective of your own personal moral or religious beliefs.

You will also need to name a medical power of attorney, also called a proxy, who will ensure that your wishes are carried out. It is important to have a second and even a third medical agent, in case the first person is unavailable and decisions must be made imminently regarding your health.

It is very important to have serious conversations with your loved ones about these issues. Choose medical proxies who agree with your wishes and whom you are confident will fulfill your advance directive as it is defined. Many people shy away from such important conversations, but once they have been broached, future discussions should be easier.

Updating your advance directive

It’s very important to review your document on a regular basis to see if it is still accurate. Some reasons to review or update include:

  • An event in your life that may have changed your views on some aspect of health care or end-of-life care
  • Divorce, death in the family, or other relationship changes that may require you to change your proxies
  • A new diagnosis, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or dementia, which may require changes in your wishes regarding health care and comfort care. You must be “of sound mind” in order to make a legally binding document, so it is important to review an advance directive while one’s mental acuity is still strong
  • Decline in one’s ability to live independently or deterioration of a current health condition
  • It has been more than five years since you have reviewed the document 

If you are changing your healthcare directive, it is best to create a new document. Then discuss the document with your proxies and loved ones again and have it notarized. Our free consultation program can help you with the process of reviewing and replacing an older directive. You can include other members of your family in the consultation. That might help you begin the conversation with them and allow you to think through the important questions regarding your future in the presence of those who love you and want the best for you. Click here to schedule your free consultation. 


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