What to Know about an Advanced Directive

By Michael Watson

What do you know about advanced directives? For some this document can be scary or simply overwhelming. Many often put off thinking about their advanced directives or may not even know what it is. The truth is this legally binding document can help you plan and communicate all of your end-of-life wishes. Advanced directives actually allow you to make your last wishes clear and can take some of the stress off of you and your family for the future. Let's learn more about advanced directives and what they mean for caregivers and seniors alike.

What Is An Advanced Directive?

An advanced directive, or “living will” as some may call it, is a legal document that allows you to write down all of your final wishes in terms of medical treatments and your end-of-life treatments. This document may never be utilized by your family or your medical team yet it may help you in life or death situations. The document may help you if you become unable to make your own medical decisions. In this instance, you may either state your end-of-life wishes in your advanced directive, or you may name a medical power of attorney to make those decisions for you.

Creating an advanced directive does not mean that you are done living. An advanced directive simply ensures that your wishes are carried out even if circumstances prevent you from voicing them yourself.

Why Have an Advanced Directive?

Advanced directives are somewhat like safety nets when it comes to your health. If you have very specific wishes for how any medical treatments should or should not go in your later years of life, then an advanced directive can help you. For example, many people do not wish to be on a ventilator if there is little to no hope that they will wake up. These people can sign an advanced directive and state their wishes.

We know that decisions about the end of your life may be deeply personal to you and will probably be based on your values and beliefs. It is absolutely impossible to foresee every single circumstance or illness that may occur in your life as you age, but you can determine a few general ideas about your medical care.

If you are in good health now, and are signing an advanced directive, then it is important to think about medical treatments such as life support. You may decide that you do not want to be placed on life support at any time in your life, and can state this in your advanced directive. If you are in poor health and are terminally ill, then you may write down certain treatment options that you do not want to try in your advanced directive. In both instances, your advanced directive will be your voice if you are ever unable to make your own medical decisions.

What Do Caregivers Need To Know

Caregivers need to know about their patient's advance directives so in a severe medical emergency they can inform the doctor and hospital about what level of care the patient wants. Advance directives take the pressure and anxiety off of the caregiver because they are simply carrying out the orders of their loved one, the patient. There are no questions because the patient has made all of the decisions beforehand.

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Tags: Legal Tips