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The Importance of having an Advocate when receiving Medical Care

By Myra Gerson Gilfix

At our law firm, we have always strongly urged our clients to consider their end-of-life wishes when we counsel them. To that end, we have used the completion of an Advance Directive as a focal point. Even more important, we have advised them that the signing of this important document is only a first step.They must communicate with their loved ones about their values and how they want them expressed when they can no longer make decisions for themselves. We all have stories about end-of-life care that didn't honor the way people chose to die, leaving loved ones feeling guilty and regretful. Clearly we need to be able to communicate effectively the kind of care we want and don't want well before we find ourselves at the end of life.

This conversation (or series of conversations) is extremely critical in order to have the hope that our care at this juncture of our lives is the way we want it.

In addition to that important conversation, there is another very important conversation we should have with those who care about us.

That conversation must emphasize our desire to secure and maintain the highest quality of life possible during whatever phase of life we are in. That means letting your loved ones know that you will need them to help you through illnesses and injuries. And that this help will need to take the form of supporting you through the maze that is our medical system. That could mean everything from being an extra set of ears at the doctor's office, to vigilance at the hospital bedside.

That means becoming knowledgeable and asking lots of good questions throughout our lives -- on our own behalf and on behalf of loved ones.

That means partnering with our health care professionals to make the wisest decisions about tests and treatments.

The advance directive is not just applicable at the end of life. It matters whenever the signer does not have decision-making capacity. In addition, if you've signed an Advance Directive, you've gone through the process of choosing a trusted person to make decisions for you when you cannot. So that person might also be an appropriate choice for an "every day" advocate or health partner. The agent, then, may not only be the legal decision maker, s/he most productively could also be an advocate, interpreter, analyzer and spokesperson. Good medical care requires your involvement as long as you're able, and it requires the help of an advocate. You together with that person (or another friend or family member -- or even a community of people willing to help) can help you in a variety of ways -- from getting an accurate diagnosis, knowing whether a medical test is a good idea, understanding treatment options, to preventing errors that can harm you. A growing body of evidence shows that patient outcomes improve when patients and their loved ones more actively participate.

Especially in the hospital setting, the presence of an advocate can mean the difference between making end-of-life decisions in the short term -- or making them many years down the road.

A Party to Thank our “Peace of Mind” Program Members

Gilfix & La Poll associates recently hosted a thank-you party in Palo Alto for members of our very popular trust maintenance program that we call "Peace of Mind." Several hundred of our clients are members of the program, which makes it easy for them to stay in touch with us, to attend free seminars (and parties!), and to keep their estate plans up-to-date in a cost-effective way.

As the program has grown, we wanted to thank our members with a celebration. Shanna Gilfix, a professional musician (see one of her original songs, with over 500,000 views, here) and administrator of the Peace of Mind program, and Myra Gerson Gilfix performed live music. Wine and cheese were also served at a wonderful event. Many of our clients sang along to classic tunes, and we are hopeful that all attendees had a fantastic time. We certainly did!

The "Peace of Mind" program has been extraordinarily popular, and it is exclusively available to our trust clients. A 2 year membership includes annual 1 hour free consultations with our attorneys, exclusive free seminars on topics related to estate, long term care, and tax planning, and discounted legal services. If you would like to learn more, please visit https://www.gilfix.com/peace-of-mind/.

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