All You Need to Know About an Advance Directive

all you need to know about an advance directive

An advance directive is something that every adult should undertake, regardless of age. Unfortunately, too many adults put it off, assuming they can do it tomorrow, or next week, or in 10 years. The reality is that an unforeseen medical emergency, terminal health diagnosis, or an accident can occur at any time. Advance care planning, which includes an Advance Directive, is a vital step in protecting your family, as well as your own well-being should you become incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself.

Advance Directive 101

Your own advance directive is a very personal and legally binding document (or set of documents) that is set in place to act as your voice when your voice can’t be heard. Situations considered and addressed in an advance directive include:

  • Whether or not you want to be resuscitated and by what means. This may include a form regarding which scenarios you want to be resuscitated, and in which scenarios you do not (requires a DNR order).
  • Do you give permission for your organs and tissue to be donated?
  • The types of life support you are or are not interested in using to sustain your life.
  • The length of time you would want extreme measures to be taken to sustain your life.
  • How you feel about blood transfusions or dialysis.
  • What is your stance on artificial nutrition and artificial hydration?
  • What do you want in terms of comfort care?
  • End-of-life care?
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia care?

While these scenarios are never easy to contemplate, it is significantly easier on your loved ones if you have made this choice before they are faced with very stressful decisions in the event that something should happen to you.

A second part of the advance directive is called a durable power of attorney. This document identifies one person whom you have decided to be your spokesperson at the point where the advance directive would come into play. Choose this person very carefully, and make sure she or he has assured you your wishes will be respected.

How Do I Create An Advance Directive?

The first step is to learn all you can about advance directives and the type of information you want to have included in yours. Once you have decided, it is important that you communicate your wishes with the ones closest to you, such as your spouse, children, and siblings, to ensure they are aware of your wishes and will (hopefully) agree to abide by them.

Once you are ready to draw up the legal advance directive, you can work with an attorney, paralegal, or you can fill out pre-printed advance directive forms yourself. Here is a link to the Advance Healthcare Directive Form for the State of California. When you have completed your advance directive forms, make multiple copies. Unfortunately, if you are in a car accident, medical personnel aren’t going to have access to your advance directive unless or until a loved one provides it. You may want to keep a copy in your glove compartment, purse, briefcase, etc. Also give one to your attorney, family members, and your primary healthcare providers.

If you are living in a retirement community of any kind, provide copies to the administration and/or management personnel. If you use the assistance of a home health care provider, it is a good idea for him or her to have a copy, as well as their employer.

The sooner you take the time to get your advanced care plans in order, the sooner you can rest assured that your wishes will be honored in the event of an unforeseen accident or medical crisis. It can provide peace of mind to you and the ones you love.

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