Filling out an advance health care directive a key step in making sure providers follow your wishes

  • Dr. Margaret Marquez provides care planning for seniors at Kaiser Permanente on Tuesday, July 19, 2011, in Santa Rosa, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Diane and Bill Evans are active seniors with no intention of slowing down as they age. But a recent health incident served as a wake-up call and prompted them to consider their wishes for the inevitable end of their lives.

The Evanses made an appointment with Kaiser Permanente physician Margaret Marquez in Santa Rosa to talk about topics like whether they'd want to be buried or cremated and if they'd want to be placed on life support if they had a grave health problem.

"It's important because, gee, my husband is 84 and I'm 75. We're young, but we're not going to be around forever," said Diane Evans, who resides in the Yulupa Avenue intergenerational co-housing development in Santa Rosa.

During the 45-minute appointment with Marquez, the Evanses reviewed a helpful checklist regarding possible future medical decisions.

"My husband plays golf three times a week, runs and lifts weights. He thinks he'll live to be 100," said Evans with a laugh.

Whether he becomes a centenarian or not, the Evanses' family members will be able to make decisions based on what Bill and Diane want if they're unable to voice them.

"I don't want to be stuck in a hospital with tubes so I wanted it documented with the hospital," said Diane Evans.

The topic of advance care planning for seniors is sensitive, and many don't want to broach it until they're forced to. But health care professionals are increasingly urging anyone over age 18 to fill out the California Advance Health Care Directive, which includes the power of attorney for health care.

In this document a person is designated as an "agent," who will be responsible for making decisions if the relative or friend is unable to do it for himself. The form needs to be witnessed, but a lawyer is not required.

Marquez, medical director of outpatient palliative care at Kaiser, says anyone with a chronic illness should have an AHCD, even if the patient's current situation is not considered imminently life-threatening.

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