ADVANCED CARE DIRECTIVES: ESSENTITIAL TO YOUR CARE
Most of us don’t like to think about the possibility of something harmful happening to us or a loved one. Because of this, we rarely think about how to protect ourselves and our loved ones if the worst were to happen. However, just as it is important to buy home insurance to protect your home and auto insurance to protect your vehicle, every individual should have an advanced care directive to protect themselves if they were no longer able to make decisions for their health care, end of life, living arrangements, and various other personal matters.
The basic definition of an advanced care directive is a legal document or group of legal documents in which a person puts in writing what their wishes are for their health if they no longer have capacity to make these decisions for themselves. Advanced care directives are often comprised of a living will and a health care proxy. Everyone who is above the age of 18 should have one.
There are several key items you should include in your advanced care directive. These can be drafted without legal help if you wish. But once you sign it becomes a legally binding document. Consider seeking the advice of a legal professional when creating a directive.
Some hospitals offer these documents for free. Remember when you think about using a hospital’s free form. The form was drafted by the hospital’s lawyers. The hospital’s lawyers are required to look out for the best interests of their client; the hospital, not you.
The most important instructions to include are which life support treatments you want, or do not want. You can provide directions on if you want all life support treatments, no life support treatments, or you may choose individual support treatments such as blood transfusions or dialysis.
Also, consider who you want to make your decisions when you cannot. Consider choosing this person carefully. This person will be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf in the event you cannot. This person should be someone you are close to and can trust. You should also decide if you want a do not resuscitate order, which states that if your heart stops or you are no longer breathing, you want every effort, or no effort made to revive you. Depending on your personal preferences, you should also include whether you would like to become a registered organ donor.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO KEEP IN MIND
Advanced directives are not the same throughout the United States and laws may vary from state to state. This can often be confusing because one state’s directive may not work in another state. To ensure your wishes are carried out, you should complete advanced care directives for all states where you spend a significant amount of time.
Emergency medical technicians are legally obligated to do whatever is necessary to stabilize a person and transfer them to a hospital. Therefore, they simply cannot honor your advanced care directive. Your directive will be implemented when a medical professional evaluates your condition and the underlying conditions.
Advanced care directives have no expiration timeline – the original will remain in effect unless you make changes to it. If you create a new directive in the same state, the previous one will be invalidated. However, it is important to notify the agent named in both the old and new document.
If your wishes do change, it is important to keep your advanced care directive up to date. If you choose to make changes, it is recommended that you create an entirely new document.
Advanced care directives are extremely important because they give you a voice when you may not be able to speak on your behalf. If you have questions about anything you’ve read or would like to meet with me to discuss how you could benefit from an advanced care directive, please call or email Doug Thesenvitz.
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