My parents have a tradition of posting holiday cards they receive on the inside of the door to their home. This year was no exception and the door was customarily covered in a variety of beautiful greeting cards. I always pause to look at them and see who has written.

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Imagine my mother’s embarrassment when I pointed out that she had accidently pinned a festive reminder for my father’s colonoscopy the door along with the other cards. In the same spirit of unwanted New Year’s reminders, I wish to discuss one simple step everyone should put into place this year that can greatly help during periods of incapacity

The Utah Advance Healthcare Directive is an incredibly useful part of an incapacity plan. It is available for free online at I have them available for free at my office as well. This directive combines two documents, the Healthcare Power of Attorney and the Living Will. The healthcare power of attorney appoints an agent, usually a spouse or other family member, to make healthcare decisions for a person who has lost the ability to do so on their own. This can include a range of important treatment options including admission to a long term nursing facility. In many cases having this document in place obviates the need for more drastic options such as a court ordered guardianship for an incapacitated person. There is also a space for a person to name a potential guardian should the need ever arise.

The living will is where a person specifies their wishes regarding care or termination of care if they are on external life support without the ability to communicate their wishes. Having directions either to be left on, or taken of life support is an enormous relief for family members who would otherwise be forced to make the decision on their own. In my work I witness these painful deliberations regularly. I can unequivocally state that the rationale, “my kids know what I want” is not generally a enough unless a person has taken the time to fill out a directive and discussed it with their family.

So like my father’s unwanted (but certainly needed) colonoscopy reminder, I wish you all a Happy New Year and implore you to get your Utah Advance Healthcare Directive completed promptly.