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5 Benefits Of Having An Advance Directive

Introduction

The Conversation Project’s study found that 92 percent of Americans believe it’s necessary to discuss end-of-life care with family members, but only 32 percent have done so. A Health Affairs survey from July 2017 revealed that most Americans don’t have their end-of-life choices in writing or have advance care planning.

While there’s no magic wand to prevent life’s unexpected tragedies, you can take basic actions to prepare your family for sudden health setbacks. Having an advance care directive helps you prepare for worst-case scenarios where you might be unable to communicate.

Deciding on future medical choices is tricky. Advance care planning offers peace of mind, especially when incapacitated or terminally ill and unable to speak for yourself. We often don’t give much thought to our future medical choices and the benefits of advance directives. So, what are advance directives? Let’s delve deeper.

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What Is an Advance Directive?

Advance directives are legal documents specifying your medical treatment wishes if you become incapacitated. If you’re terminally sick, gravely injured, in a coma, experiencing late-stage dementia, or nearing the end of your life, an advance healthcare directive helps doctors follow your wishes. Typically, an advance directive includes a healthcare proxy and a living will.

Who Should Make an Advance Care Directive?

It’s a misconception that only the elderly need an advance care directive. Unexpected end-of-life circumstances can happen at any age, so it’s best to prepare for future events regardless of age. By planning in advance, you can receive the medical treatment you desire, minimize needless suffering, and spare caregivers from making tough decisions during grievous times.

When Does an Advance Directive Go Into Effect?

An advance directive goes into effect when you’re too ill to speak for yourself and convey your medical decisions. For example, if an accident leaves you in a coma and unable to communicate your treatment wishes. It’s crucial to plan your advance care while healthy and share your end-of-life treatment preferences with your family or medical proxy.

What Does an Advance Directive Do?

Advance directives are legal documents that guide someone to make healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated. These documents express choices beforehand and can cover any medical care and support, typically including decisions concerning end-of-life care.

Things to Include When Preparing an Advance Directive

Consider the following elements when preparing your advance care directive:

  • Medical Treatment Preferences: Specify what kind of medical treatment you’d prefer in a life-and-death situation. Define what a good death means to you.
  • Life-Support Systems: Decide if you’d want to use life-support systems to delay death, especially if you’re perpetually unconscious.
  • Family and Proxy Discussions: Talk to your family, proxy, and anyone else about your advance care wishes, ideas, and feelings.
  • Selecting a Proxy: Choose someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. Leave no space for ambiguity to avoid friction among family members. It’s also important to select an alternate proxy.

What Are the 3 Types of Advance Directives?

There are various advance directive examples, written in different ways. State laws and courts determine the validity of these documents. Common advance care directive documents include living wills, POLST, and powers of attorney.

  • Living Will: This document goes into effect if you’re terminally sick or permanently incapacitated and unable to make decisions about emergency care. It outlines preferences for end-of-life care.
  • Power of Attorney: A medical power of attorney allows you to choose someone to make decisions on your behalf when you’re incapacitated. It’s also known as a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney for healthcare in some states.
  • POLST or MOLST: Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST or MOLST) specify medical procedures you want carried out in specific medical emergencies or circumstances. A licensed physician must sign a POLST form for it to take effect.

Living Will vs. Advance Directive

Living wills and advance directives are often confused but have significant distinctions. Advance care directives include various documents instructing medical care preferences, one of which is a living will specifying your preferred course of medical care if you develop a fatal illness.

Benefits of Having an Advance Directive

Advance care planning is essential for unforeseen health problems that may leave us incapacitated. When you can no longer make medical decisions, an advance directive becomes crucial. Here are some additional benefits:

  1. Easy to Create: Making an advance directive is straightforward and cost-free. While state forms may need to be notarized or witnessed, creating one is simple.
  2. Preparation for Uncalled Medical Situations: Advance care planning assures quality end-of-life care, avoids unnecessary treatment, and makes your intentions clear.
  3. Avoiding Family Friction: An advance care directive gives peace of mind to loved ones and prevents friction within the family by clearly outlining your wishes.
  4. Guiding Doctors and Caregivers: It helps your caregivers and doctors understand your future medical choices, allowing them to serve you better.
  5. Speaks for You When Incapacitated: An advance directive conveys your medical care wishes when you’re unable to speak for yourself, helping to avoid unnecessary and potentially distressing treatments.

Conclusion

Though you can’t control the future, planning for worst-case scenarios ensures your advance care is prepared even if you become unable to do so. An advance care directive expresses your end-of-life preferences, improves your future care, and lessens the stress on your family. Discuss your intentions with your caregiver and doctor, and understand the advantages and purpose of creating an advance care directive.

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