Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst is a somewhat cynical English proverb. But it can also serve to remind us that we should take steps to ensure our quality of life and provide a clear understanding of our wishes for ourselves during traumatic events.
Less than 25 percent of Americans have expressed their thoughts in writing about how they wish to be cared for at the end of life. Most people avoid the subject.
We’ve all heard heartbreaking stories of families suffering through difficult circumstances where they cannot make important health care decisions on behalf of a loved one who doesn’t have the ability to make it for themselves. In some cases, these unfortunate situations could have been avoided if they had taken advantage of Arizona’s Advance Directive Registry.
The registry is a free database of advance directives that can indicate someone’s desired course of action in the event they are incapacitated or unable to make medical or financial judgments for themselves. Directives such as living wills, medical powers of attorney and mental health powers of attorney can often provide an explicit roadmap for those making important decisions on their behalf.
While online registration isn’t available, the process is simple and you can request the free Guide to Filing Advance Directives from our office, or download it on our website, www.azsos.gov. If you do not feel comfortable in preparing an advance directive by yourself, we encourage you to contact an attorney or one of the many organizations that provide this type of service. In addition, whenever you make these decisions, it’s important to include your family in the process. That way, it’s completely clear what your wishes are.
Once you complete the form and file it with our office, a printed record of the registration will be returned by mail and a wallet card will be issued. Once the office receives verification that the information on file is correct, the registration will be officially activated. Keep the card with file number and password handy, contact your health care provider, and share your password with your appointed medical power of attorney, doctor and the hospital or clinic where you receive medical care.
It is important to note that the Secretary of State’s Office cannot answer legal questions about how to prepare these forms, but we are pleased to provide you with a safe, convenient and confidential place to store your advance directives.
Filing an advanced directive can go a long way to save your family and friends any additional heartache or legal battles over what may seem to you as an unlikely event. Please consider joining over 17,000 other Arizonans who have taken healthcare decisions into their own hands.
— Ken Bennett is Arizona secretary of state