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Making end of life decisions helps you, your Family

By Eve Meinhardt, WAMC

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2015) -- With the fast pace of life and society today, we often have our days planned out down to the minute on what we need to do, where we need to be and what we're going to eat. One of the things we often neglect to plan for are our future healthcare choices.

Advance care planning is an important part of taking care of you and your Family. The subject may be a difficult one to discuss, but talking about it in advance can help ease stress on everyone if you become unable to make your own decisions in the future.

When discussing future healthcare needs with your Family, it's important for you to determine the types of care you want, including life sustaining treatments, organ donation and funeral arrangements.

Once you have that difficult discussion, it is important to prepare documents in advance of a serious illness. Advance directives include living wills and durable powers of attorney.

Living wills let medical personnel know if you do not want certain life-prolonging medical procedures in the event that you are terminally ill, permanently unconscious, or in a vegetative state, and are unable to make your own decisions.

A durable power of attorney for healthcare authorizes someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. It's a signed, dated and witnessed document designating the person you choose to make healthcare decisions when you no longer can. The power of attorney for healthcare is only able to make medical decisions for you and is not the same as a power of attorney for financial matters.

"Advance directives are important for patients to consider in order to express their wishes to their loved ones about their healthcare choices at a time when they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves," said Dr. Melissa Roberts, Family Medicine Residency Faculty Physician, Womack Army Medical Center . "This helps to ensure that patients receive care that is consistent with their wishes."

Roberts said that living wills and powers of attorney for healthcare also make things easier on the patient's family.

"(Advance directives) provide a framework for loved ones to use to help make medical decisions at a very stressful time without the guilt of questioning if that is what the patient would choose for themselves," she said.

Advance directives may be changed or revoked at any time.

There will be three informational sessions about advance directives during Retiree Appreciation Day at Womack Army Medical Center on Oct. 24. The sessions are open to all attendees and will be held in the Family Medicine Conference Room at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Legal professionals will also be available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Retiree Appreciation Day to help prepare advance directives.