Advance Health Care Directives and Why You Need Them

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If you have ever been admitted to a hospital, you were probably asked “ Do you have an Advance Health Care Directive?” Hopefully you said yes. If you do not have one, here is some information you should know about.

In California, the California Advanced Health Care Directive is a document that allows you to share your values, your choices, and your instructions about your future health care. This form may be used to:

  • Name someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you (your health care agent), or
  • Provide written instructions about your future health care, or
  • Both name a health care agent AND provide written instructions for future health care.

You will also need this form if you move into an assisted living community or skilled nursing facility.

For the document to be executed properly and therefore legal, it must be witnessed by two people or notarized. The witnesses cannot be related to you or be an heir to your estate.

Why do you need this document? In the event you become injured and unable to make medical decisions, you have designated another person to make medical decisions for you. Your health care agent and you have discussed your wishes and the agent agrees to make sure your wishes are honored.

You will also designate an alternate so in the event the first agent is unable or unwilling to uphold the directive, then the other agent will be contacted. The directive is either effective upon completion, even if you can make your own decisions, by checking a box or when you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

Another document you should have is the Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment or POLST. Here is the link for the California version POLST.

Most physician offices, skilled nursing facilities and hospitals have this form available to you. This document is unique as it is fuschia pink and thick like cardstock.

This document is a legal physician order signed by your physician and dictates certain treatments that you do or do not wish to receive in the event you are sent to a hospital and are unable to make decisions. You can designate an agent from the Advance Healthcare directive to act on your behalf.

You should give a copy of each of these documents to:

  • Your physician
  • The agents of record
  • Your hospital of choice
  • Any facility you move to
  • Your family members, if they are not your agents of record
  • Do not lock it in a safe deposit box

The more people you make your care wishes known to the more likely that your wishes will be honored.

You should keep a copy on the refrigerator or by the front door in the event emergency services personnel have been called to your residence.

At the Colony Residential Care, we require these forms to aid us in honoring your wishes in the event of an emergency. We provide these documents to emergency personnel if you are to be transported to a hospital.