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Health Care Directives Are for ‘All of Life’

Published in Women's Services, Senior Services, Home Health Services, Hospice Services, Men's Health, For the Health of It, Advance Care Planning Author: Lori Braegelmann, Advance Care Planning Program Manager

Often when health care directives (a.k.a. advance directives or living wills) are mentioned, we quickly think of medical concerns surrounding end of life, especially medical decisions surrounding aging and/or seriously ill people. And, yes, health care directives are super important for our family members and friends in these situations. But if we take a closer, a more realistic look at the concept of Advance Care Planning, we realize that health care directives really come into play for all of life.

Only a small percentage of us are aware of our life’s timeline. For most of us, our lifetime is undetermined. We are certain there is a timeline, but unless we have a serious illness (and even if we do sometimes), we cannot pin it down. Even as we age, we generally have no idea when the end-of-life phase might kick in.

End-of-life can be quite obscure and vague. But this unpredictability of life can be one of its greatest blessings. It can empower us to plan as best we are able despite an unknown timeline. It can lead us to embrace the unexpected and can inspire us to prepare for the best all-of-life experience possible…. including life’s uncertainties.

If we break down the expression “advance directive” the wording is powerful and really makes so much sense:

  • Advance – Plan when we are healthy and not experiencing any medical challenges; when we are calm and can think most clearly
  • Directive – Instructions or preferences on how we want decisions to be made if we become unable to do so. We also may select representatives (health care agents) to speak for us.

Since most of us do not know when our end-of-life phase might begin, how about we widen the focus of health care directives to include all of life and most specifically end of life.

Are your wishes documented for all of life?

Find helpful Advance Care Planning resources to help you start.