Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What are Advance Directives and Why Are They Important?


It’s important to make your healthcare wishes known to your friends and family, just in case you ever became incapable of making decisions for yourself. 

“It’s not just a document.  It’s a way to start a conversation, and letting others know what is important to you, what matters, what your values are,” said Sandra Westmoreland, a social worker at Sentara Martha  Jefferson Hospital.Advance directives are physical forms that document what type of medical care you’d like if you ever become unable to speak for yourself. 

"We encourage anyone over the age of 18 to complete and advance directive because life is unpredictable and you never know,” said Westmoreland.  “A young person can all of the sudden have a serious illness or an accident.”  

The first step of the process in completing one is to have a conversation with the person who you’d like to speak for you.  This person is often referred to as your agent. 

“You’re looking for someone who is responsible, who is willing to be your agent, and who will be able to make sure your wishes are carried out,” commented Westmoreland. 

Once the document is completed, it’s important to make sure your doctor, local hospitals and family members all receive a copy so everyone can be on the same page and understand your desires. 

“Once you make your wishes known it alleviates the family from having to make decisions, very difficult decisions, or even having to guess at what you would have wanted,” noted Westmoreland. 

A table will be set up in the main lobby of Sentara Jefferson all day on April 17 in honor of National Healthcare Decisions day.  Anyone is welcome to stop by and get more information. 

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, please email healthquestions@nbc29.com

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

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