Advance directives: an important part of estate planning, P.1

Many families, at some point, face difficult decisions regarding end-of-life for a loved one. Sometimes it isn't clear what call to make in the moment, or what the loved one would prefer if they could speak for themselves.

In Georgia, the Advance Directive for Healthcare form allows individuals and families to take more control of their health decisions and avoid the confusion and uncertainty of making the decision at an inopportune time.

An advance directive is a document spelling out an individual's preferences for medical care and appointing an agent to make health care decisions in the event the individual is incapacitated.

According to Dr. Richard W. Cohen of the WellStar System ethics program, individuals should make advance directives a central part of their long-term life planning. "People need to think about an advanced directive program as part of n end-of-life responsibility. You buy life insurance, think about estate planning, develop a will, and part of that same responsibility is to be able to provide health care providers and family with wishes for your care."

Who should seriously think about an advance directive? According to Dr. Cohen, particularly anyone over age 50 and those diagnosed with chronic illnesses or other serious health issues.

Dr. Cohen recommends that those filling out an advance directive form speak with their family prior to completing the form. Doing so may not be comfortable for some, but it adds reinforcement to the individual's wishes as expressed in the form, and prepares family for situations where difficult decisions may need to be made.

Source: Marietta Daily Journal, "Advance directives gaining recognition," Laura Braddick, 26 June 2011.

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