It’s a topic most people don’t care to think about -- end of life care. But if you were in a situation where you couldn’t speak for yourself, wouldn’t you want others to know your wishes? This is where an advance directive comes in.
So what is an advance directive? It’s a legal document that can state what kind of care you want — or don’t want — if you are unable to communicate. You can also use it to identify a person whom you trust to make healthcare decisions for you. These are two different approaches, so let’s discuss how they both work.
Making your wishes known
A living will states your wishes for medical care if you are unable to do so yourself. You can accept or refuse certain treatments in this document, depending on your feelings about life-saving care. This may include your wishes for breathing machines or life support, resuscitation, tube feeding, and organ donation. Sometimes people refer to these as a DNR (do not resuscitate) order because they use it to tell the medical team not to perform CPR in the event that their heart stops.
Some people feel strongly that they don’t want certain life-saving treatments, while others wish to prolong their life with any treatment necessary. It can also depend upon your condition, such as having an illness that is terminal. Either way, having this information in a living will can be helpful for several reasons:
- It allows you to speak for yourself if you have strong feelings about life-saving care
- It takes pressure off your family to make decisions without knowing what you want
- It ensures your wishes about organ and tissue donation are honored
If you have a living will, your health care team will follow it to the best of their ability.
Naming someone to make decisions
A durable power of attorney for health care allows you to name one person as your health care proxy or agent. Your proxy can make medical decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself. This may be a spouse, child, or another close family member.
You may decide to have a health care proxy and a living will. In this case, your proxy will make decisions for you while following your wishes outlined in the living will.
How to get started
These documents do not have to be complicated, and you don’t have to use an attorney. Once you’ve completed it, copies should be given to your close family members and your physician. You may wish to get it notarized, although this isn’t a requirement.
Each state has its own laws about advance directives, so you’ll likely need to go to your state’s website for the information you need. Some states have forms that you simply fill out and sign, while others ask you to simply write or type the document yourself.
Even if you're not terminally ill, an accident can occur at any time. Having an advance directive gives you the power to make decisions and take charge of your own health care in nearly any situation.
CarePoint Health Primary Care
Your primary care physician can help you manage your healthcare, and answer any questions you have about your health. Your PCP will help you navigate your well visits and specialist care throughout your life, and will be your health care advocate. To find a skilled primary care physician at CarePoint Health, please contact us.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.