If you became unable to speak, who would make your medical decisions? That’s the question being raised throughout the county on April 16th.
That date marks the ninth annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, a nationwide event promoting the importance of health-care choices and advance care planning. This day is a reminder for us all to take steps to ensure that our wishes are followed in times of crisis.
Advance medical planning is of particular importance to the LGBT community, because our support systems frequently fall outside of traditional “family” structures. The friends and loved ones you rely on and know best may have little power to speak for you when you need it most, unless you take specific steps ahead of time.
“If you do not have a health care proxy or an advance directive set up, and you’re not married, a parent or sibling would be in charge of your health care decision making,” said Bethany Henderson, program manager of the SAGECAP (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders – Caring and Preparing) program at Chase Brexton Health Care’s LGBT Health Resource Center. “And if there’s no family available, these decisions could end up being made by doctors who never met you in a conscious state.”
There are two important ways to protect yourself: you can make your own decisions in advance and put your wishes into formal documents known as advance directives, and you can use an advance directive to designate a Health Care Agent who will make medical decisions on your behalf. Many people do some combination of the two. Maryland also utilizes a form called the Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment to inform emergency responders of your wishes during a medical crisis. These forms are free, and do not require the use of a lawyer or notary to complete them.
Chase Brexton’s SAGECAP Program is offering a Lunch and Learn workshop on Thursday, April 14th to discuss these important options. Presented by the Howard County Department of Aging, this workshop will inform attendees of their legal rights and the importance of securing advance directives before an emergency arises. Participants will be able to complete their advance directives immediately through a step-by-step process during the workshop.
The SAGECAP Program is always available to assist members of the community with these and other important life-planning issues. For more information, please contact Bethany Henderson, SAGECAP Program Manager, at the phone number above or visit the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care at 1111 North Charles Street.
The theme of this year’s National Healthcare Decisions Day is “It always seems too early, until it’s too late.” Please don’t put off these important steps until it’s too late – protect yourself now by putting your advance directives in place.
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