We have all heard the quote: “Communication is key”. This is ever so important when deciding your future health care. As our population gets older, we are often faced with the question of what care you want in the event that you cannot make your own decisions. Did you know there are ways to make your decisions in health care known, while you are still able to do so?
Advanced Directives are basically “your life on your terms, on paper”. Advance directives center on the principles of your right to die and death with dignity. With an advance directive, you can express how much or how little you want done for you when you are no longer able to make these decisions.
Advance directives are a way of making your voice heard when you can no longer speak. They allow you to appoint someone to make your health care decisions for you when you no longer can and to administer or withhold treatment and procedures. Advance directives are not just for the elderly. All people who desire to direct their medical care in the future should complete an advance directive.
An advance directive does not mean, “Do not treat.” This is a common misperception and not correct. Of course, if you want it to mean do not treat, then that is something that your surrogate needs to know.
Two types of advance directives are generally completed: a living will and a medical power of attorney (also referred to as designation of a health care surrogate or health care proxy).
- Living will: This written statement tells health care providers what type of life-prolonging treatments or procedures to perform if you have a terminal condition or are in a persistent vegetative state. Living wills should not be confused with a regular will. A living will only deals with and addresses issues regarding your medical care while you are still living.
- Medical power of attorney (or designation of a health care surrogate): This legal document allows you to select any person to make medical decisions for you if you should become temporarily or even permanently unable to make those decisions for yourself. This person is also referred to as your attorney-in-fact, but it is not necessary for them to be a lawyer.
Life-prolonging treatments: These procedures are not expected to cure your terminal condition or make you better. They only prolong the dying process. Examples include a ventilator (breathing machine), kidney dialysis, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Terminal condition: If you have an incurable condition of this type, medical treatment will only prolong the dying process. And without such treatment or procedures, death will occur in a short period of time.
Persistent vegetative state: This permanent coma or state of being unconscious is caused by injury, disease, or illness. You are unaware of your surroundings, and no reasonable expectation of recovery exists.
If you are interested in Advanced Directives, here is a link for by state. Just click the link, print out the advanced directives and follow the steps to complete it.
I will be discussing DNR status, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. I will also be discussing the importance of Power of Attorney.
Do you have advanced directive? If not, do your families know your wishes? Does ALL your family know your wishes? This can be a very stressful time, and can cause great division among family, when wishes are not expressed in writing.
Take time to make your wishes known!