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When doctors, nurses or social workers bring up the subject of Advance Directives, many patients and their families become concerned that their condition is serious. They may wonder, “What do you know that I don’t know?” This is one of the many misconceptions about an Advance Directive. To dispel the myths of advance care planning and help patients understand the importance of having an Advance Directive, St. John Providence Health System has launched MY PLAN (Making Your Personal Life wishes: Act Now).

A recent study by The Conversation Project found that more than 90 percent of Americans know they should have a conversation about their health care wishes, yet only 30 percent have done so. Also, 60 percent of people say that making sure their family is not stressed by making difficult decisions is “extremely important” but 56 percent have not communicated their wishes.

An Advance Directive is something that every adult, regardless of health-status, should prepare and share with family members, loved ones and medical providers. It is a legal document that allows you to choose a Patient Advocate, someone who your medical provider will be able to consult with to understand your personal health care goals as they change over time and to help ensure you receive the right care in the right place at the right time according to your preferences.

This legal document also helps you clearly express your views so that your Patient Advocate and your physicians know what medical treatments you would — and would not — like to have. Your Patient Advocate can be a spouse, family member or friend, a person you trust to speak for you and make medical decisions for you if you become permanently or temporarily unable to make your own decisions. You can always change your Advance Directive and name a new Patient Advocate by completing another document.

It’s important to understand that an Advance Directive can only be used in situations when you are not able to make your own decisions. No one can make decisions for you if you are still able to make those decisions and speak for yourself. It’s a good idea to review, update and make changes to your Advance Directive whenever you feel it is necessary or at least once every five years.

Five Quick Tips on MYPLAN (Making Your Personal Life wishes: Act Now)

1. Think about your values and beliefs

2. Select a person to speak for you, also known as a Patient Advocate

3. Talk to your Patient Advocate and others about your wishes

4. Write these wishes by completing an Advance Directive and date it

5. Give signed copies to your Patient Advocate, family members and physician

For more information about Advance Directives and the planning process, talk to your health care provider. For information regarding upcoming community classes at St. John Providence about how to create MY PLAN for yourself, please call (866) 501-DOCS (3627) or visit stjohnprovidence.org/AdvanceDirective to download your own Advance Directive.

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