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Florida hospice administrator speaks about healthcare proxy

The administrator of Haven Hospice spoke to the Columbia County Commission, and announced a "National Healthcare Decisions Day." The administrator issued a challenge to all Floridians to execute a healthcare proxy and choose a surrogate.

Haven Hospice is a state-wide organization that has facilities in 18 counties and is available 24 hours a day seven days a week. The hospice can care for 700 to 800 patients at a time, and has helped over 45,000 patients and families since it was founded in 1979. Patient care teams work with patients and families and their physicians to come up with a care plan to control pain, manage symptoms, and meet the medical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patients. The administrator's presentation emphasized the need for people to designate healthcare proxys, and have a discussion with the individual chosen about their "five wishes." This is a document created by the hospice to start conversation on the important things a healthcare surrogate needs to know. According to Haven, over 50% of people do not have advanced healthcare directives.

While most people make a will to distribute their property, it is also important that they consider what might become of them if they are still alive, but incapacitated in some way. While the law will choose someone by the law of proxy to make decisions for an incapacitated individual absent a medical directive or healthcare proxy, most people would prefer to choose that person themselves.

A living will is a legal document that individuals can prepare to express their personal wants and wishes with regards to medical treatment in the event of incapacitation. A living will can include various medical options the individual wishes to have in the event they become terminally ill. A living will not take legal effect unless the individual is determined to be in a state where they are unable to make decisions regarding their health care.

It is essential that people preparing for the end of their lives have all the pertinent and correct information about the various documents available so that their wishes are able to be carried out. There are very specific rules regarding the wording and execution of these documents. The sooner these issues are taken care of, the better, as the future is unknown.

Source: Columbia County Observer, "Haven Hospice Challenges North FL: "I challenge all of you to appoint a health care surrogate," Stew Lilker, April 3, 2013

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