Community Health: A Conversation About Advance Medical Directives

advance medical directives

Today’s conversation on The Valley Today is part of an ongoing community health partnership with Valley Health where host, Janet Michael talks each month to physicians, administrators, nurses, etc. from Valley Health about a wide range of topics regarding healthcare. The guest today was Dr. James VanKirk, Director of Palliative Care for Valley Health, based at Winchester Medical Center about advance medical directives. You can click here to listen to the conversation.

Dr. VanKirk explained what palliative care is: a specialized, interdisciplinary approach to improving comfort and quality of life at any stage of serious illness by addressing symptoms, communications, and next steps. The two talked about National Healthcare Decision Day that happens on April 16 each year. He told us that it’s actually observed for the entire week but advance medical directives can be done at any time of year.

Dr. VanKirk talked about the different types of advance medical directives, how to start the conversation with loved ones, how to decide who you’d like to be “your person” and the steps you should take to ensure your wishes are on file somewhere like your local hospital. An advance directive is a form you can complete so that you can be in charge of your health care if you become unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself because of injury or illness. “It always seems too early until it’s too late.”

An Advance Directive includes two important parts:

  • Choosing someone to be your voice when you cannot speak for yourself. This person is commonly called a health care agent, or may also be known as a Health Care Proxy, Substitute Decision-Maker, or Medical Power of Attorney.
  • Communicating the kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want. This is called your Living Will.

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To hear more conversations in this series, visit the podcast page: