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Who will speak for you? Mountain States launches advance directive educational campaign

Zach Vance • Apr 22, 2017 at 11:37 PM

In the case of a medical emergency, do you know who will speak for you?

Mountain States Health Alliance officials launched a pilot program Wednesday to educate employees and patients about initiating an advance directive, a legal document that tells health care providers about your wishes.

Honoring Choices Tennessee, a statewide nonprofit coalition, is leading the initiative — called AdvanceDirectivesTN — with the goal of getting more Tennesseans to have an advance directive.

“We are excited to create this vehicle that will help all Tennesseans, young and old, understand this very important document and to encourage them to consider how it can bring their families closer, while helping improve patient-centered care in our state,” said Melissa Cooper, Board Chair of Honoring Choices Tennessee and Mountain States Health Alliance CEO of Home Health and Hospice.

With support from CEO Alan Levine, Cooper said she volunteered Mountain States to become the first organization to host the pilot program.

Honoring Choices’ initial plan calls for educating health care workers in the state about the benefits of advance directives so those individuals can then educate their patients and their families.

Cooper said many Mountain States employees began learning about advance directives during last week’s benefit fair.

“We’ve already talked to 350 team members about their advance directive, and what they wanted during the end of life,” Cooper said. “Really what we’ve accomplished is making sure people know the difference between an advance directive and a living will.”

While each state regulates the use of advance directives differently, the National Institute on Aging describes an advance directive as oral or written instructions about future medical care in the case of someone being unconscious or too ill to communicate.

A living will is a type of advance directive that takes effect when a patient is terminally ill, but Cooper said an advance directive is usually more specific regarding medical care.

An advance directive can address detailed decisions like resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, antibiotics, comfort care and organ and tissue donations.

Research conducted last year found that less than one-third of Tennesseans had executed such a document, according to a press release announcing the campaign.

Officials believe advance directives are becoming more important because, although Americans are living longer, it can sometimes have an adverse impact on quality of life.

“The Honoring Choices Tennessee initiative can be a real blessing, a critical opportunity to empower the difficult but important conversations that can improve our approach to advance care and end of life planning,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. John Dreyzehner.

“Receiving care that honors individual values and having the opportunity to talk and make informed decisions about end of life care depends so much on the recording and sharing of these documents with family and others given access, like health providers.”

To access a template to create your own advance directive or learn more information, visit www.AdvanceDirectivesTN.org.

Email Zach Vance at zvance@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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