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Health Care Decisions Day offers easy filing for advance directives

By Lydia Nuzum, Staff writer

For many, making decisions about their end-of-life health-care wishes can seem daunting, but agencies around the region are offering help today as part of a national initiative to help patients file their advance directives.

National Health Care Decisions Day is today, and several local events will help people to make plans for their future care by filing Do Not Resuscitate forms, living wills and power of attorney forms. 

"For the past seven years, National Health Care Decisions Day has helped spotlight the importance of advance directives such as living wills and medical power of attorneys," said Dr. Alvin Moss, director of the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care. "West Virginia is among the national leaders in not only getting residents to fill out these helpful forms, but in getting them submitted to the statewide, secure e-Directive Registry database."

The West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care, an agency funded through the state Department of Health and Human Resources' Bureau for Public Health, allows patients to file advance directives through the agency and lets doctors access a database of patients' wishes online. 

The agency's e-Directive Registry, which allows users to file online for advance directives related to end-of-life care, has seen a spike in filings since its launch in 2012. The directory received 10,836 forms in 2013, a 35 percent increase from its 2012 submissions.

Advance directives are documents that allow people to outline what medical decisions can be made on their behalf in the event they are not able to because of illness or incapacitation. These forms include Do Not Resuscitate orders, living wills, medical power of attorney forms and Physicians Orders for Scope of Treatment, or POST, forms, which are written based on agreements between a doctor and patient on what medical steps will be taken during a medical crisis.

"The West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care appreciates the support of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia Health Information Network in making this resource available to health care professionals in our state," he said.  "These forms enable patients’ wishes to be known and respected in emergencies when patients are too sick to speak for themselves."

Downloading an advance directive through the site is free, and West Virginians or their doctors can fax or mail the completed forms to the center, where they are then filed in the directory. Moss said the WVCELC also partners with the West Virginia Health Information Network to allow its protected patient information to be part of the larger WVHIN portal, which includes broader information, such as a patient's allergies or medications.

Surveys show that three-quarters of the state's residents would prefer to die at home or in a hospice center, rather than in a hospital. West Virginia is one of six states to have a program like the e-Directive registry, and West Virginia's is the most comprehensive, according to Moss.

Sponsors and locations include the West Virginia Bureau for Senior Services, Charleston Town Center Food Court; Charleston Area Medical Center, Teays Valley Hospital; Thomas Memorial Hospital, South Charleston; Cabin Creek Health Systems, Belle Health Center; Cabin Creek Health Systems, Clendenin Health Center; Cabin Creek Health Systems, Cabin Creek Health Center in Dawes; and the Cabin Creek Health Systems' Sissonville Health Center.

Nearly 50 locations across the state are set to participate in Health Care Decisions Day. For more information, including individual agency contact information, visit www.wvendoflife.org. 

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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