MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people, were faced with serious illness or a medical emergency that required vital decisions about their medical care, and sometimes those decisions couldn’t be made by the patient themselves. This has brought awareness to the need for making an advance directive.

National Healthcare Decisions Day, is an initiative held annually on April 16, to encourage people to make an advance directive and to discuss their wishes about future healthcare decisions and put them in writing.

This helps loved ones, providers and facilities be aware of and respect those wishes. People can specify what life-sustaining treatments they do or do not wish to have. Tax season is a great time to think about getting all personal documents in order.

“Designating a trusted healthcare agent who is aware of your wishes is the most important part of an advanced directive. Doing this means you’ll have an advocate who can speak on your behalf about medical decisions when you’re unable to,” said Cory Taylor, MD, associate medical director for palliative care for Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City. 

Advance directives are important for anyone over 18 and even younger, if they have a serious chronic condition.

“When I was about 19 years old and was leaving home for a couple of years, my dad sat down with me and we talked about who would make decisions for me if I was seriously injured or incapacitated and we put those wishes in writing. And we worked to make that document official,” said Dr. Taylor

“These are difficult, but very important conversations to have. Talk about your values with your healthcare agent. Share your preferences about what makes you feel like you’re living life and not just existing. It paints a picture so they can make decisions about questions that are hard to anticipate in advance. You can’t anticipate all the scenarios,” said Dr. Taylor.

Dr. Taylor says it’s a good idea to update advance directives annually, or if one of the “four D’s” occurs:

• Diagnosis – you receive a serious diagnosis

• Deterioration – your health is declining

• Divorce

• Death of your designated healthcare agent 

Keep all your information up to date and check the legal requirements for paperwork in the state where you live. Advance directive forms can be completed online, on paper, at home or in the doctor’s office or hospital.

“It’s always too early, until it’s too late,” said Dr. Taylor.

For more information visit Intermountain or National Healthcare Decisions Day for state-specific requirements.

Advance directive forms for Utah in English and Spanish can be found on the Intermountain advance directives webpage, the Intermountain patient portal, My Health+ or here.

Sponsored by Intermountain Health.