Advance Directives are more than just Living Wills
Your medical care preferences can be stated in your advance directives. This can guide your doctor or family if the time comes that you are unable to make your own health decisions. This advance directive can also help avoid disagreement or confusion caused by well-meaning family members with different opinions.
Things that can be included in your advance directives:
- Living will. This is known as the health are declarations or health care directives. This document will indicate the medical treatments and life sustaining measures you want or don’t want
- Medical or health care power of attorney (POA). This document will indicate the person responsible to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are no longer capable of making decisions
- Do not resuscitate (DNR) order. It is a request to not to be revived if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. Advanced directives do not necessarily include a DNR order and you don’t have to have an advance directive for a DNR order. Your doctor can put a DNR order on your medical chart.
The Importance of a Living Will and Medical POA
It is advisable to create both a medical POA and a living will because a living will cannot cover all possible situations. A medical POA can assign a person to act as your health care agent. This will authorize him or her to make medical decisions on your behalf as guided by your living will. The authorized person will also have the capacity to interpret your wishes that were not clearly indicated in the living will. A medical POA can be helpful when families have different or opposing opinions with regards to your well being.
How to Choose a Health Care Agent
The most important part of your planning is choosing who to designate as your health care agent. You should find someone who takes your interest at heart and understands what your want to happen and act accordingly. People who are mature and level headed and comfortable with candid conversations should be assigned because they will focus more on what you want to happen rather than of feelings of guilt or obligation.
Values that are important to you can be used to determine your wishes. Define the necessary treatments that you would want and those that should be forgone. Do you want every effort to prolong your life, or would you prefer to die with dignity with less medical intervention? Only you can decide. Discuss your questions regarding care and treatments with your doctor:
- Resuscitations. Choose between cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or by using a device that delivers electric shock to stimulate the heart. Both of these methods restart the heart when it stops beating.
- Mechanical ventilation. Consider how long you want to be under a machine that breaths for you the after you become incapable of breathing independently
- Nutritional and hydration assistance. How long do you want to be kept alive through feeding tubes and intravenous methods?
- Dialysis. Do you want this treatment for the removal of waste from your blood and to maintain your fluid levels after your kidney is no longer functional?
Advance directives can also specify your wishes for any organ or body donation or tissue transplant. You can contact a medical school near your area for details.
Share your Wishes with your Family
Discuss with your family regarding your medical care wishes when you create a medical directive. It may not be an easy subject to talk about, yet by planning ahead, you can be sure of the medical care you want to receive. It will leave them at peace with the tough decisions that occur during end of life.
Fill Out Forms for your Estates
Your advance directives should be in writing. After filling out the forms keep one copy in a safe place and give another to your health care agent or family member(s). Carry a card in your wallet stating you have a living will and where it can be found.
Review Advance Directives from Time to Time
Your health, the available treatment choices and your life’s perspective may all change over time. Consider revising your advance directives if you happen to change your mind about the instructions you have stipulated in the document. This living will or medical POA is only enforced if you are unable to make your own medical decisions yourself as determined by your doctor.