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Family conversations about advance health care directives

We all understand the importance of planning. We plan for graduations and weddings, we plan for retirement and we love to plan for vacations; but most Americans do not consider the importance of planning when it comes to medical decision making. Talking about your healthcare wishes with your family is a gift. If you become critically ill and cannot communicate, your loved ones and medical team must make important decisions about your care. These decisions will have serious impacts on your end-of-life experience.

Creating an advance directive and learning how to discuss end-of-life care with your loved ones will help to ensure your wishes will be honored and, more importantly, spare your loved ones from guessing about your preferences. The best time to have this discussion is when you are well and long before you are facing a medical emergency.

Tne of the most important decisions is to select whom you will name as your Health Care Power of Attorney (HC-POA). Your HC-POA will be the person who you designate to act on your behalf, should a medical condition incapacitate you from being able to do so. You will also want to select an alternate should your first choice be unavailable.

An excellent resource to help facilitate a discussion with your family regarding advance directives is known as "The Five Wishes." This easy-to-use self-guided document allows you to complete an advance directive, select a Health Care Power of Attorney, and have the peace of mind to know that it meets the State of California's legal requirements when completed as directed.

If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of "The Five Wishes" for your family, contact Kristi Necochea- Director of Community Relations at Hospice of the Valleys, 951-200-7800 or visit

Leslee B. Cochrane, M.D., is the executive medical director of Hospice of the Valleys.


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