Many people only think about end-of-life care as it pertains to getting older. However, a medical emergency could happen at any time that leaves you unconscious or unable to make decisions for yourself. In these situations, it is left up to family members to decide what they think you would want. Rather than making them choose, creating an advance directive can clearly state your wishes, leaving little gray area.
What is an advance directive?
An advance directive is a legal document that typically contains two main parts: a health care power of attorney and a living will. It may also contain other documents pertaining to specific situations.
- A health care power of attorney is someone that you appoint to make medical decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated or incapable. They are the person the doctors or healthcare providers will turn to for approval.
- A living will is a document that outlines your wishes when it comes to life support, resuscitation, ventilators, dialysis, feeding tubes, or comfort care. You may also state whether you want to be a tissue or organ donor.
Who needs an advance directive?
Anyone age 18 or older can benefit from an advance directive. You never know when a medical emergency will arise, such as a car accident, stroke, or terminal illness. It can be helpful if facing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as well. While it is a legal document, you can always update your advance directive as your health changes or your wishes change. What you wanted at 25 may be different at 55 or 85.
Why do you need an advance directive?
These legal forms ensure that your decisions related to your care are followed. It can take some of the stress off of family during an already difficult time. It can be hard to have these conversations, especially while you are alive and well, but that is the best time to do it – while you are thinking clearly. This is especially true if you were to develop a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s; you want to make decisions while you are still of sound mind.
Putting it in writing leaves no question as to what measures you want taken to prolong your life or provide you with comfort. There is no argument among family about what you might have wanted, because you have stated your wishes. Some topics a living will often covers include:
- Whether you want to receive care in a hospital or at home.
- What type of medical treatment you do or do not want.
- Whether you want to be resuscitated or intubated.
- Whether you want artificial nutrition (feeding tube) or hydration (IV).
- Whether you want to donate any of your organs or tissue.
- What type of care you want to receive at end-of-life to keep you comfortable.
Creating an advance directive
You can work with an attorney to create this document, or your family can fill it out on your own. Some states require it to be notarized, while others simply require signatures from two witnesses who are not your health care power of attorney. Check with your state for specific requirements.
Once you have completed and signed or notarized these forms, make sure you keep a copy with your medical records, give one to your doctor and your attorney, and distribute them to your family. If you update these records, don’t forget to give new copies out.
It is important to have a copy available for your in-home care provider as well so that they know your wishes should anything happen while they are caring for you. They will know exactly who to call and how to respond. They can also work with your health care team during end-of-life care to ensure your needs are met. Learn more about the benefits of in-home care by calling Always Best Care today at (855) 470-2273 to schedule a free consultation.