When you walk into your provider’s office, the hospital Registration Department, a local imaging center or a surgical center and complete the required paperwork, are you often stumped when you come across the question about whether or not you have a Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney or Advance Directive?  It seems you are not alone in this confusion.

“The statistics have been pretty consistent over the years that only about 25 to 30 percent of all people have advance directives, states Jill Logan, Director of Ethics at Yavapai Regional Medical Center. “This is because people often think that these forms are only for the elderly or the ill, but they are for anyone aged 18 and above.”

Ms. Logan went on to explain that, “It is a much better conversation to have with a family member to say ‘we are so glad that your mother completed this Living Will that can identify what she wants at this time’ versus ‘your mother is not getting better, what do you want us to do?’”

An Advance Directive is a document that you complete that helps you express your wishes regarding healthcare decisions when you can no longer communicate. In this way, the Advance Directive becomes your voice so that your family members do not have the burden of making healthcare decisions for you in what is often a very confusing, stressful time.

The Advance Directive consists of a Living Will, a Medical Power of Attorney (agent) appointment, and a Mental Healthcare Power of Attorney. The Living Will is a document that indicates what you do or do not want when you can no longer communicate your healthcare wishes. The Medical Power of Attorney can be anyone you choose—before you can no longer choose—to act on your behalf to oversee your healthcare decisions once you can no longer communicate. The Mental Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document that lets you name someone to make decisions for you related to your mental health if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.

“In Arizona, we have a statute that says your family members who have not been appointed as your agent or guardian shall not consent to or approve the permanent withdrawal of the artificial administration of food or fluid. So, this is another good reason to have these documents in place,” said Logan.

Arizona accepts a variety of forms, so you can go to any of the following websites and download a copy: Yavapai Regional Medical Center, the Arizona Secretary of State or the Arizona Attorney General. You can also go to either YRMC hospital location in Prescott and Prescott Valley and ask for a form at the Volunteer desk or ask your attorney to help you fill one out if you are doing estate planning.

You may also send a copy to the Arizona Secretary of State. They will make it accessible to healthcare providers via the internet. Instructions for this process can be found on the Arizona Secretary of State’s website.

The Advance Directive does not need to be signed by a notary in the state of Arizona.

If your Advance Directive needs to be updated later, take a revised copy to the hospital, your doctor and your appointed agent. Your most recent form is what your provider will follow.

If you have any questions about advance directives, please contact Jill Logan at (928) 771-5618.