Advice on advance directives for healthcare: Involve a provider

While two-thirds of Americans have wills for their estates or possessions, only 15 percent have advance directives for healthcare.  Most often, those directives are written by legal professionals, not healthcare providers, so when a crisis comes, the documents might not give adequate guidance on medical care.

That’s the word from Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources, which will host free informational presentations in Puyallup and Tacoma this month about advance directives from a medical view.  The sessions are scheduled for:

  • April 7 at 10:30 a.m. at the Puyallup Public Library, 324 S. Meridian.
  • April 21 at 10 a.m. at Pierce County Sound View Building, 3602 Pacific Ave.

The presentations will be led by Nancy Lorber, who is with the Congregational Health Ministries program at CHI Franciscan Health.

Experts say most advance directives focus on four possible scenarios — coma with a chance of recovery, persistent vegetative state, dementia, and dementia with terminal illness.  The reality is that, for a majority of patients, their medical condition is more complex and can develop dramatically over a period of hours or days.

“When families confront an extreme health crisis of a loved done, they typically turn to advance directives for healthcare,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, manager of Aging and Disability Resources, a division of county government. “While that can be extremely helpful, the reality is that such guidance can become very limited.  Unless a healthcare provider was involved in drafting the directions, these legal documents may not provide adequate help in real-life circumstances.”