Life, health change as you age so plan for any uncertainty – San Bernardino Sun


By Michael Bacon,

Contributing writer

Most people have heard of creating a will to leave your legacy or belongings to your family, and know the value of starting that process early. Fewer people have heard of advance directives.

Michael Bacon Michael is the inpatient advance care planning facilitator at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center. (Photo courtesy of MemorialCare)

Like wills, advance directives are essential parts of planning for the future. While wills help you plan for your financial future, advance directives address your medical future.

An advance directive is a legal document designed to help you plan for your health care in case you are ever unable to speak for yourself. You can choose someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. You can also give information about the medical treatments and other care you would and would not want if you become very sick.

Every adult should have an advance directive in place. It’s especially important for those who are 55 and older or are managing serious health conditions.

As we age, our health changes with us.

While we may not frequently encounter life-threatening emergencies, our metabolisms slow, knees have an extra pop and our organs are working harder.  There are approximately 49 million Americans who are 65 years and older, according to the National Council on Aging, and about 80% have at least one chronic condition and nearly 70% with Medicare beneficiaries have two or more chronic conditions.

As you age, it’s important to have a document in place to help you and your loved ones make plans for your health care, providing peace of mind for everyone.

Below are some of the benefits of an advance directive:

Ensures your needs will be met

Having an advance directive in place ensures your health care decisions are known and honored.

These decisions include your preferences regarding artificial life support, visitation and specific religious needs.

While it may not be the most pleasant topic to think about, having these conversations doesn’t mean these decisions will need to be made any time soon. It just ensures that if the time comes, you receive the medical care you want; no more, no less.

Supports your family in making difficult decisions

Documenting your health care preferences can actually take a substantial burden off your loved ones.

When families must make difficult health care choices, they are often dealing with grief and can struggle to make decisions on behalf of someone they love. In some cases, families may not agree on the best thing to do, leading to conflict. Having your wishes written down reassures them that they are doing what you want and lightens the load on your family.

How to have the conversation

How do you go about starting this conversation without people assuming the worst?

Advance care planning is a routine part of health care. You can bring it up with your loved ones when you return from your regular doctor’s visit, mentioning it as something your doctor educated you on at the appointment. You can be upfront with your loved ones and share that you’ve been thinking about your future and want to start an ongoing conversation about your health and health care wishes.

You know your family best. Whatever works best for you to start that conversation with your family — go for it!

Writing an advance directive

How do I go about writing an advance directive?

There are plenty of free advance directive forms available online, such as the one available at memorialcare.org/acp. You can even ask your doctor at your next visit if they can help you fill one out.



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