I’ve harped a lot in my newsletters about the importance of having an advance directive. I can only hope that those of you who have been reading, have had the conversation and completed your advance directive. But, as I have said before, this is not a ‘once and done’ evolution. Having the conversation should be ongoing. Your directive should not be locked away somewhere, never to be revisited until it is needed. If it is, you haven’t been listening.
So, listen up. Advance directives are living documents that should be modified or updated when things change. So, what should prompt you to do an update? This is where the “5Ds” come in. There are some people who say there are six and I will soon address this. Here are the five reasons, developed by the American Bar Association, when you should consider re-looking at your advance directive to ensure it remains current and updated:
- Diagnosis Change – if you receive a new or change in your current diagnoses, it is time for a review of your directive
- Decline in health status – if you become more unwell or your health status is deteriorating it is important to ensure that your directive still reflects your current wishes
- Death – if one of your healthcare agents dies, be sure to modify your plan to include a new agent, yes, that means a new document, no ‘pen and ink’ changes
- Divorce – although this may sound silly, I know a number of former spouses who still chose to have their exes assume the duties of the healthcare agent. You cannot assume one way or the other on this issue. The best thing to do, if there is a divorce, is complete a new advance directive so that it is clear to all who your healthcare agent will be, even if it hasn’t changed. Remember if you’ve done your plan yourself, there should be minimal if any additional cost.
- Decade – This should be considered as a minimum for those people who complete their directives in their 20s and 30s. For others, I would recommend a yearly review. Remember, it doesn’t mean you have to rewrite anything, just review it and rewrite, if appropriate.
Well, a lot has changed in light of the current pandemic. People are learning a lot more about their health and healthcare needs during this time; and where we may not have felt at risk before this happened, we do now. And we are distancing, which can also be another of the Ds to consider. People who are either emotionally or physically distanced may not be the best choice as a healthcare agent so keep that in mind. Get smart in this new day and age and be certain you understand the risks so you can make good decisions for yourself.
Keeping your advance directive current and updated, using the “5 Ds”, is all part of the ongoing process that reflects the fact that you continue to:
Have ‘The Conversation’
Give ‘The Gift’
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