It’s not the most pleasant topic but it impacts people of all ages. What are your healthcare choices when you’re in a medical crisis and can’t speak for yourself?
The South Carolina Bar Association says end of life care is the most popular topic it hears about from you during its free legal clinics.
And it’s not something that only impacts older folks. Legal experts say, as soon as you turn 18, you authorize a plan to control your medical care.
“Our wishes should not be a secret when it comes to what you want in healthcare,” said Attorney Judy Blackwell.
She says that’s where Advance Directives come in. It’s a written record of your healthcare wishes to be used when you’re not able to make those decisions yourself.
“Let’s say, I have an accident or I could have a stroke. And even though I’m going to get better, during that period of time when I can’t make decisions for myself, I’ve executed a document to use in advance that will say who will take care of things for me,” said Blackwell.
Advance Directives include a living will and financial and healthcare powers of attorney.
Blackwell says the first step in the process should be communicating what you want in medical care with your family.
Then, choosing who should make those decisions for you when you can’t.
“That is not always your spouse. It’s not always your child,” said Doctor Bill Bell, a physician in hospice and palliative care. “It may be somebody from your church, it may be your neighbor. But you need to know that that person will follow to the “T” exactly what you wanted.”
Dr. Bell says once it’s all written down, make sure those papers get to the right people.
“Get them to your doctor. Get them to the hospital. You’ve gotta put them where they can be seen. They are worthless in a drawer,” said Dr. Bell.
This Wednesday, April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. The SC Bar is using this week to make people aware of advanced care planning.
If you find it difficult to talk about with your family, there are resources available to help you get that conversation started. Click here for a list of organizations that can help.
You can also find the documents you need online to print off and fill out yourself. Keep in mind not every state is the same, so make sure you’re using documents specific to your state. And if you have questions consider seeking advice from an attorney.
In honor of Healthcare Decisions Day, Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home is hosting a free event on Wednesday, April 16th from 3-6pm. You can drop by to discuss or complete your Healthcare Advance Directives. Spartanburg Regional Hospice is located at 686 Jeff Davis Drive in Spartanburg. For more information, contact Linda Harris at (864) 560-3909.