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April is the month to take the time to make some important health decisions

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POSTED: April 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.

April is National Healthcare Decision Month. It is designated as such to create an awareness of the importance of choosing a Healthcare Agent (previously know as power of attorney for healthcare) and filling out the Advanced Directive form designated by the state of Georgia. The rules for advance directives in the state of Georgia have somewhat changed since the middle of last year; they have actually become more simplified - imagine that. None-the-less, decisions regarding healthcare have become one of the most important issues of our time. You’ve seen national news stories on TV and in the newspaper regarding such situations, and it is something that most of us will need to face either for ourselves or for a loved one - possibly both. And yet so many of us still neglect the need for such advanced planning. Why?

I know for myself it boils down to, "I’m not that old yet, I’m in pretty good shape and I still have time." Wow, how naïve can one get? Many others just don’t like the thought of making decisions about "stuff like that"…hey, I’m no different, I hate the "D" word. But this involves more than just decisions about death and dying.

Everyone should have the right to be informed about their medical treatment and to refuse that treatment for any reason. Sometimes this can be confusing, especially while you are in a hospital or are in need of medical care. The best way to be sure your voice is heard is to write down your wishes in advance.

As of July 1, 2007, Georgia law changed and we now have one document called the "Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare." This new format combines the old Georgia Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare into one comprehensive document. The old forms, if completed prior to July 1, 2007, are still valid and will still be accepted as a person’s legal wishes.

The new GEORGIA ADVANCE DIRECTIVE FOR HEALTHCARE has four parts:

Part One allows a person to appoint someone else to legally make health related decisions on their behalf, if the person can not speak for himself.

Part Two allows a person to state her treatment preferences, including end of life wishes.

Part Three allows a person to nominate a guardian.

Part Four is the signature and witness page.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER ABOUT ADVANCE DIRECTIVES:

1. A person must be a fully competent adult to complete an Advance Directive.

2. These documents are only in effect if you are not able to express your own thoughts and wishes about treatment issues.

3. Advance Directives only cover healthcare decisions and have nothing to do with your financial affairs.

4. You can change your mind at any time, by completing a new form, or telling someone that you have different wishes.

5. You do not need a lawyer to complete the forms and they do not have to be notarized.

6. You will need two competent adults to witness these forms and the witnesses can not be members of your family.

If you or someone you know desires more information about this important health issue, please make a point to attend a very important workshop to be held at Magnolia Manor on the Coast on Monday, April 28 from 6-7 p.m.. Betsy Kammerud, Social Worker with Hospice Savannah will facilitate the session and it is open and free to the public. Refreshments will also be served.

 

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