Sixth Annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, designed to “inspire,
educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of
advance care planning,” will be held throughout the United States on
Through many years of experience, Beverly Bryda, ACSW, Masonicare Health Center’s
Director of Social Services, knows firsthand ow important Advance
Directives can be to individuals and their families. Here, she explains
why we should all have conversations with our loved ones and medical
providers as to how we would want our care and treatment managed if we were terminally ill and unable to engage in decision-making conversations.
What is an Advance Medical Directive and why should I have one?
Advance Medical Directives outline specific instructions and
directions for your physician and medical clinicians to use in making
and following through on the care decisions, treatments, and
interventions you would want if you are not able to communicate them
yourself. An Advance Medical Directive is a formal legal document.
Your wishes as outlined in the document must be followed when
end-of-life care decisions are being made for you. Completing an
Advance Directive is your legal right. In Connecticut, two of the most
important Advance Medical Directives documents include the Living Will and the Appointment of Health Care Representative form.
What is a Living Will?
The Living Will is a document that clearly explains your
wishes regarding end-of-life care. It guides and authorizes medical
physicians to provide, withhold, or remove life support systems if you
become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. The Living Will
is utilized only if you are unable to communicate your wishes, engage
in formal decision making, or participate in directing your own health
What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
This document names the person you choose and legally appoint to make
health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Your
healthcare representative has the legal authority to accept, refuse, and
remove medical treatment, interventions, and life support on your
behalf. Completing this advance directive assures that your wishes will
be followed, and it also lessens the emotional burden and personal
sense of responsibility your loved ones would have to experience when
faced with making a difficult medical choice for you. Appointing a
healthcare power of attorney assures that decision-making will be
directed by someone you know and trust and who is familiar with your
wishes and healthcare philosophies.
Do I need to see a lawyer to get an Advance Directive?
Although Advance Medical Directives are legally binding documents,
they do not require the services of a lawyer to complete, and most forms
don’t have to be notarized. The documents require that you sign and
date the forms in the presence of two witnesses who are both at least 18 years old.
What if I want or need to make changes in the future?
If you have already completed these documents, it is suggested that
you periodically review them and execute changes if needed. Inform your
family members and medical providers of any changes that you are
considering and complete updated documents to reflect the changes you’ve
made. Be sure to provide your doctor and your family with copies of
your most current Advance Directives. You may want to keep a notice in
your wallet stating that you have completed Advance Medical Directives
and where a copy of these documents can be obtained in case of an
How often should I review my Advance Directives?
Suggested times to review these documents are at the time you receive
a new medical diagnosis, when there is a life changing event such as
divorce or the death of a spouse or loved one (especially if this change
affects your previous appointment of healthcare representative), and at
the time of a significant birthday (such as the beginning of the start
of a new decade of life). Since accidents, illness, and unplanned
medical events occur at any age, completing an advance medical directive
is suggested for young (over age 18) and old alike.
Where can I go to get more information?
Additional information and copies of the Advance Medical Documents
are available on line at the State of Connecticut’s web site, www.ct/gov/ag. The official website for National Healthcare Decisions Day is www.nhdd.org