Whether resulting from age, illness, or accident, an extreme medical situation may occur at any time. If you plan ahead and express in writing your preferences for health care at the time of incapacity or at the end of life, you can ensure that your family members are neither burdened with such decisions nor need to seek court order to address certain medical situations. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, Advance Medical Directives enable us to deal with these situations while other states may recognize living wills, medical directives, medical powers of attorney, or health care proxies. Regardless of terminology, all 50 states allow an individual to designate an agent to act on his or her behalf with regard to health care and to express medical preference in the case of incapacity resulting from terminal illness or injury.

In an effort to educate and encourage individuals to consider the importance of addressing health care decisions in the event of incapacity before the need arises, nearly two thousand international, state, and local organizations, including the Virginia State Bar, have coordinated events surrounding National Health Care Decisions Day (and week – April 16, 2017 through April 22, 2017). This year, the Commonwealth of Virginia will be celebrating its Tenth Annual Healthcare Decisions Week and has given the following themes to each day of the week:

Sunday (4/16): Prepare. A day to get resources together.

Monday (4/17): Start with Yourself. A day to think about your own healthcare decisions.

Tuesday (4/18): Family/Friends/Loved Ones. A day to discuss your wishes with others (and learn their wishes).

Wednesday (4/19): Spread the Word. A day to tell others that you’ve engaged in advance care planning and encourage them to do the same.

Thursday (4/20): Facilities Focus. A day for healthcare providers of all sorts to promote advance care planning.

Friday (4/21): Professionals Preparedness. A day to ensure that all professionals (healthcare, clergy, legal, and others) understand and can promote advance care planning.

Saturday (4/22): Reflection and Readiness. Consider what worked well for NHDD week and file/share your advance care plans so they will be available if needed.

To learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day and the organizations involved in the movement, visit http://www.nhdd.org/about/#about-us.

Virginia residents also should consider visiting http://www.vsb.org/site/public/healthcare-decisions-day for additional information, form documents, and access to the Virginia Health Care Directive Registry – a free registry which allows Virginia residents to securely store important healthcare documents.