Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They give you a way to tell your wishes to family, friends, and health care professionals and to avoid confusion later on. Advance directives can take many forms. Laws about advance directives are different in each state. You should be aware of the laws in your state. By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf. The Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment – is an approach to end-of-life planning (POLST) form complements the Advance Directive and is not intended to replace it. The POLST form is a medical order indicating a patient’s wishes regarding treatments that are commonly used in a medical crisis. The POLST form assures patients that health care professionals will provide only the treatments that patients themselves wish to receive, and decreases the frequency of medical errors.
What is a living will? A living will is one type of advance directive. It is a written, legal document that describes the kind of medical treatments or life-sustaining treatments you would want if you were seriously or terminally ill. A living will doesn’t let you select someone to make decisions for you.
What is a durable power of attorney for health care? A durable power of attorney (DPA) for health care is another kind of advance directive. DPA states whom you have chosen to make health care decisions for you. It becomes active any time you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions. A DPA is generally more useful than a living will. But a DPA may not be a good choice if you don’t have another person you trust to make these decisions for you.
What is a do not resuscitate order? A do not resuscitate (DNR) order is another kind of advance directive. A DNR is a request not to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing. Unless given other instructions, hospital staff will try to help any patient whose heart has stopped or who has stopped breathing. You can use an advance directive form or tell your doctor that you don’t want to be resuscitated. Your doctor will put the DNR order in your medical chart. Doctors and hospitals in all states accept DNR orders.
Should I have an advance directive? By creating an advance directive, you are making your preferences about medical care known before you’re faced with a serious injury or illness. Have discussions with your primary care doctor, your health care agent, family and friends about your personal wishes.
This will spare your loved ones the stress of making decisions about your care while you are sick. Any person 18 years of age or older can prepare an advance directive. Starting the conversation will be hard but once it has been initiated it can prevent confusion, guilt, and disagreement over tough medical decisions
To get these forms you can check with your primary care doctor, legal aid, legal helpline, or any of the websites that have these forms on them such as caringinfo.org, aarp.org, your local hospice or agingwithdignity.org for “Five Wishes”.
The most important items if you have an Advance Directives make sure that everyone knows that you have one so they can follow it and talk with them about it. Make sure the designated agent and your doctors all has a copy. Copies can also go to other relatives, friends, neighbors, Post in your home so EMS can see it, check with the local EMS to see if they can scan one into their system so they knows. Remember Advance planning is an ongoing PROCESS. Review your wishes yearly or anytime your health or family status changes, make appropriate changes, and communicate those changes as needed.