A piece of paper titled “Advance Health Care Directive” and a pen. Note: Shallow focus on the word ‘Health’.

You’re about to take the trip of a lifetime, and you’ve got an extensive list of sights to see and experiences to pursue while you’re there. You’ve purchased your tickets, packed comfortable clothes and shoes, and sent a copy of your itinerary to loved ones. You know that thoughtful planning is key to enjoying what the future holds – which is exactly why advance care directives are so important.

Having an advance care directive in place allows you to relax and enjoy hobbies and interests, travel, time with friends and family, and everything else that life has to offer, knowing that you have empowered and comforted your loved ones by providing the information they need to ensure your health care wishes about your health care are carried out.

While it can be difficult to think about anything happening to you, especially if you are in good health, experts at Edward-Elmhurst Health advise approaching an advance care directive as an expression of love: planning now to spare those closest to you from having to make difficult decisions in the future. Creating an advance care directive also provides an opportunity to reflect on your ultimate goals and priorities when it comes to your health care. Studies in the first half of the decade showed that only about one-third of Americans had any sort of advance directive in place, but the pandemic has underscored the importance of such discussions regardless of one’s age or health background.

One type of advance directive is a living will, which outlines what medical interventions you support on your behalf. In crafting such a document, experts recommend thinking about your values and what is most important to you. A living will should also address what you would want done in common scenarios that might arise, such as the need for cardiopulmonary resuscitation or comfort care.

Advance directives can also entail choosing a health care agent or medical power of attorney, in which you designate another person to carry out your living will and make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This person, who may also be referred to as your health care proxy, patient advocate or healthcare representative, can talk to healthcare providers about your condition; view your medical records; give permission for tests, medications and other treatments; and talk with your loved ones about your health, among other potential responsibilities.

When designating a health care agent, experts advise choosing an assertive, trustworthy person who will uphold and advocate for your healthcare wishes, has an understanding of medical processes, lives close enough to get to the hospital or healthcare facility quickly, and is willing to serve in the role. It is also crucial to have conversations with your health care agent to ensure they fully understand your wishes, in addition to putting everything in writing. Depending on which state you call home, you may also need to have additional documentation on file.

Want to learn more about advance care directives? Take a moment to register for the June Lex and Learn workshops at Lexington Square Elmhurst or Lexington Square Lombard! During this free workshop, which is open to the public, a licensed clinical social worker will share insights and answer questions about advance care directives, and attendees will receive a complementary document to aid in preparing an advance care directive. The Lex and Learn educational series, which was recently launched by the vibrant Lexington Square retirement communities, offers classes on topics of interest to active adults; last month’s well-attended workshop focused on getting the most out of selling a home in a hot real estate market.

Planning ahead when it comes to medical care offers great peace of mind – so if you don’t already have an advance care directive in place, there’s no time like the present to give yourself and your loved ones this gift.

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