Now that the festivities have passed, it’s time to talk about the importance of advance directives. Why? You will do your clients and your community an important service — and help your firm in the process.
Thanks to you, your clients have already completed their advance directives. But how much do their families know? Do loved ones know:
- That your client has created an advance directive?
- Who the appointed health care agent is?
- Where they can find this document?
- What their wishes and goals for care actually are?
Did clients take the advance care planning community’s advice to discuss their health care goals over the holidays? If not, now is the perfect time to remind them that they need to communicate this information to their loved ones and that they completed these documents through your firm.
While it may be a subject that some clients want to avoid, talking about end of life wishes can actually do more good than harm. Studies have shown that having “the talk” not only increases quality of life for people suffering from illness, but also decreases the likelihood of depression in their family members after they die. I also suggest urging clients to also let family and friends know where they keep their advance directives and if they have a way to get them immediately in an emergency through a registry or other accessible approach. These documents do no good if they are not at the hospital when needed.
The Conversation Project has great suggestions and scripts for helping people broach this subject with loved ones. There are also several decks of advance care planning “playing cards” that offer a different approach to talking about this difficult subject. Please feel free to email us for a fuller list of resources!
Advance care planning also presents a great opportunity for community marketing. Your community needs information on this topic: more than a quarter of American adults have given little or no thought to their end of life care, and even fewer have actually written anything down, according to a recent Institute of Medicine report. With National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) a mere four months away on April 16, it’s time to start planning for how you can tap into this important and useful vehicle for community outreach and for getting press. Here are some things you can do to reach out to your greater community, especially in concert with NHDD:
- Write an article or op-ed for your local paper centered on the topic of advance care planning.
- Give a community seminar on advance directives. Assisted living facilities, libraries, senior centers, your local AARP chapter and hospitals are good venues for this.
- Post a piece on your blog or newsletter encouraging clients to bring up these topics with their friends and families.
- Consider offering advance directives as a “loss leader” (free or discounted) as a way to establish relationships with potential clients.
Email us for a complete list of ideas for community outreach!
Randi J. Siegel, MBA, is the President of DocuBank (docubank.com), which ensures that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 200,000+ enrollees are available 24/7/365 through the largest advance directives registry in the U.S., as well as access to an online safe for storage of digital assets and other vital documents. Working with estate planning professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries. A member of the Philadelphia Estate Planning Council, the International Society of Advance Care Planning and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, Randi is active in health education and public engagement related to advance care planning/advance directives. She serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National Healthcare Decisions Day initiative and as a board member of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. Randi is an ongoing contributor to the Academy blog.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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Phone: (800) 846-1555