Where’s That Advance Care Directive? (NYT, 10-17-13)

Many people have completed advance care directives (healthcare power-of-attorney, living will, POLST, Five Wishes, etc.) but, as this New York Times article points out, they haven’t distributed copies to the right people and they don’t have a copy available when needed.  The article notes that often these ACDs are at lawyers’ offices or in safe deposit boxes.

Between the article and the comments on the article, this advice was given as to whom to distribute copies of your ACDs:

  • primary care physician
  • other physicians including neurologist and cardiologist
  • individuals named as healthcare decision-maker
  • additional family members and friends

The author says:  “The more copies there are in circulation, the better the odds that one will materialize at the hospital when you need it.”

One of the comments had this useful advice from an attorney:  “I also tell clients to enter the names and numbers of their agents/proxies into their cell phones under an entry entited ICE== in case of emergency.  EMTs look for ICE numbers as well.”

Speaking of EMTs…  One local support group member handed his wife’s living will to the EMTs, who came to their home after he dialed 911 as his wife had fallen.  This is not a form that the EMTs can do anything with.  The only form that should be handed to EMTs is the POLST, which stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment.  For lots of good info on the POLST, see capolst.org.

Other comments contained advice on where to place copies:

  • On the refrigerator door
  • If not on the refrigerator door, then put note on refrigerator door telling EMTs where the copy can be found, maybe near a bed or on the back of a door.
  • “Put a copy of it in the glove box of your automobiles, and ask your named health care agents to do the same.”
  • “If your health care agent is likely to take an airplane to your home destination, ask him/her to put a copy in his/her luggage.”
  • Save copies electronically in various places – Google Drive (and give access to others), Dropbox (and give access to others), on a smartphone, with a service, on a USB drive.

One other worthwhile suggestion — if you are wanting the ACD of a family member, ask them to give you their completed ACD as a Christmas gift.

Here’s a link to the full article:


The New Old Age: Caring and Coping
The New York Times
Where’s That Advance Care Directive?
By Paula Span
October 17, 2013, 6:00 am