Creating an Advanced Directive: Starting a Conversation that Counts

May is Older Americans Month and this year’s theme is Get into the Act, highlighting how older Americans can take charge of their health and make a positive impact in the lives of others. Completing an advanced directive is one important way that older Americans can take charge, but millions of Americans (of all ages) don’t know what this important document is or how it can be helpful in a medical emergency or health crisis.

senior couple with advanced directive

What’s the single biggest obstacle keeping adults of all ages from completing an advanced directive?

J.Redwing Keyssar, RN, Director of the Palliative Care Program says it’s the grave discomfort we have in discussing end-of-life care decisions and death with our loved ones, family, doctors and clergy. “These conversations are so hard for many people, but making sure they happen is the most important way for your loved ones to know your wishes, and be able to speak for you when necessary.”
What is an Advanced Directive?

An advanced directive (also known as a durable power of attorney) is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the types of treatments you may want at the end of life. Once completed, it is signed, dated and witnessed. An advanced directive is NOT a living will. Although they are similar, a living will only addresses your wishes regarding life-prolonging treatments. An advanced directive goes one step further allowing you to name a person or “agent” you can trust to make decisions for you if you have lost the ability to do so. These documents become effective only when you can no longer communicate decisions yourself.

An advanced directive isn’t just for older people! People of all ages find themselves unable to communicate their decisions during a medical emergency or unexpected incident, such as a car accident.

Seniors At Home recommends that everyone over the age of 18 completes an advanced directive and reviews it every five years. After the age of 50, it is recommended that you review it yearly. Redwing suggests that you add a date in your calendar knowing that you will take a look at your document on that specific day. She says, “Each year, make sure that your wishes haven’t changed, or there haven’t been changes in your health, or the health of your agent. Any changes may mean it is time for an update.”

How can Seniors At Home Help?

Seniors At Home hosts workshops to help our clients examine and discuss concerns, fears, and feelings that may arise during end-of-life planning. We also discuss the necessary paperwork and decisions that must be in place, as well as how to advocate for family, friends, loved ones, and ourselves.

If an individual session seems more appropriate for you and/or your family, Seniors At Home can schedule a one-on-one consultation to help get the conversation started, answer questions, and find solutions to difficult issues. Our experts can also be hired to present to a group of friends or associates at a dinner party, sometimes called “Death over Dinner,” or a community workshop, or panel discussion.

“Remember, Redwing says, letting your loved ones know your end-of-life wishes is the biggest gift you can give them.”

Contact Seniors At Home to learn more about advanced directives >

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