Advanced health care directives are written instructions that communicate your wishes regarding care and treatment should you no longer be able to make your own health care decisions. Some directives are broken down into two parts - a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA). The exact language and type of document will vary depending upon the laws in your location.
Basically a Living Will allows certain treatments to be withheld or withdrawn if using them will only prolong your dying process; or if you are unconscious (and in a vegetative state) and there is no hope for recovery. An example of treatment may include feeding tubes or resuscitation if you heart stops working.
If you are unable to make health care decisions, either temporarily or permanently, a HCPOA allows you to appointment someone to make them on your behalf. It is in your best interest to choose someone who understands thoroughly your desires and is willing to honor your requests. Should you not designate a decision making person(s), generally your legal next of kin will be looked for to make that decision for you. Caution - please note that it is your “legal” next of kin who will be making decisions, and not necessarily your significant other of 25 years. In today’s world, this is another very important reason to have these documents in place.
From the standpoint of a health care provider who has worked from intensive care to hospice to primary care, I cannot stress enough the importance of having these documents completed...NOW. One never knows when one will have need of them, and these documents will save you and those that love you much grief and suffering.
In many cases, you can obtain forms from your health care provider. Forms are also readily available online. A simple online search using "Advanced Health Care Directive" on google pulled up 680,000 pages. You can break that down further by including your state/country.
Once you have these forms filled out, signed, witnesses, and perhaps even notarized, make several copies and put the original in a safe place. Make sure that the person/persons whom you have designated as your decision maker have a copy of the document, as well as your health care provider, hospital, and anyone else who needs one. Please make sure that everyone involved knows your wishes.
And remember, should you change your mind . . . just fill out a new form. The most current form is always the valid one.
For over 26 years, Barbara C. Phillips, MN, NP has been involved in health care. Now, as the founder of OlderWiserWomen, LLC, that experience and passion is focused on Women who want to experience the freedom, magic and wisdom of successful aging. She can be reached through http://www.OlderWiserWomen.com.