Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: advance directives help plan desired medical care

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Sentara Martha Jefferson) - April is National Healthcare Decisions month, and a time when everyone is encouraged to complete, or review their advance directive.

“We want to increase the number of people who have their advance care plan in place,” said Tammy James, a chaplain at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Advance directives are documents that help people make their medical wishes known.  They detail what healthcare decisions you’d want made if there came a time when you couldn’t decide for yourself.

“People need to think about what medical care is acceptable, and at what point would I choose a natural passing rather than intervention by the medical team,” noted James.

In her role as chaplain, James works with many on putting together their plans.

“I think a lot of times people are afraid of advance care planning because they don’t know the questions to ask,” said James.

She suggests talking with your healthcare providers, as they can help tailor decisions to each person’s needs.

“It protects people’s autonomy and lets people make choices ahead of time about their medical care,” said James.

Ultimately, having a plan in place, and a person to execute that plan for you, makes difficult times easier on everyone.

“It relieves the family of making decisions in the emotions of the moment when their loved one is at the end of life. It’s the worse time ever to try to figure out what would mom or dad want,” noted James.

In honor of Advance Care Planning month, the Central Virginia Advance Directive Collaborative is holding several free virtual sessions to help people with advance directives.  For more information, visit

Chaplains at Sentara Martha Jefferson are also always willing to help people as well.  They can be reached by calling 434.654.7000.

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