What You Need to Know About Advance Directives

Advance Directives

Posted on July 22, 2014 by Cindy Phan

Planning for the end of life entails contemplation of possible terminal scenarios. No one likes to imagine one’s final passage, but by giving it some thought ahead of time you will be doing yourself and your life companions a foresighted favor. You can complete this favor with an advance directive.

components of an advance directiveIf you become incapacitated and unable to communicate, written advance directives enable the people caring for you to know the extent of medical treatment you would want. Forms for this purpose vary by state and may be generalized, or quite specific in terms of possible situations and approaches to managing them. The capacity to document instructions allows you to be in control rather than burdening loved ones with decisions that may be stressful for them.

 

What Does an Advance Directive consist of?

There are 2 documents in an advance directive that, although separate documents, typically go hand-in-hand

  1. Healthcare Proxy a.k.a. Healthcare Power of Attorney, or Durable Medical Power of Attorney

    • A Healthcare Proxy is a document that pertains to the assignment of an agent to act on your behalf. It is up to you to name someone who will have the authority to make healthcare decisions or see yours through if you are physically or mentally unable to state your wishes at the time, whether temporarily or permanently.

      • A healthcare proxy may be called upon to inform medical personnel as to whether or not a doctor should order a DNR (Do-Not-Resuscitate) code to be included in your treatment plan. That means that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) will not be performed once the heart has stopped beating or breathing has ceased, thereby allowing death to occur naturally. If your attitude toward this had been included as part of a living will, or even communicated verbally, it will be easier for your agent to direct a course of action confidently.

  2. Living Will (a.k.a. advance directive)

    • The Living WIll specifically outlines the different levels of care you want and do not want. Through this record of wishes, in spite of having lost the ability to communicate, a person can be part of the medical team as the primary decision maker. It averts dilemmas that otherwise could occur if you are afflicted with an incurable or irreversible condition that will inevitably lead to death. The reason for filling out this form is to avoid medical treatments that would prolong the dying process.

A third option in an advance directive is entirely a separate addition:

  1. The Financial Power of Attorney

    • The Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf in instances of incapacitation, based on a durable power of attorney document. This individual becomes the legal surrogate for handling your personal affairs, such as financial transactions and bill payments.

Obtaining and Handling Forms for Advance Directives

It is easy to obtain forms for advance directives. To find one pertaining to your state, go to End of Life Guides By Sate.

Other sources include online sources, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities as well as those of public services providers.

Organizations and businesses may have them for the convenience of their personnel. Attorneys, of course, provide them and are familiar with specific details that vary according to state precepts.

Once you have completed these forms, it is imperative that you choose an accessible site for storage of them. Since they must be easily accessed when needed, you should have copies of the ones that might be sequestered in an attorney’s office or in a bank safe deposit box.

Extra copies could also be filed in offices of healthcare providers and residential institutions. Your pivotal life companions should know where your records are located, as well as any keys or passwords essential for retrieving them. Communication with family members and caregivers is paramount to usefulness of this stored information. Besides letting them know that such instruments have been prepared, it is important also to discuss your wishes with them.

Additional Resources:

  1. Aging with Dignity provides you with the option to purchase online a legal document called Five Wishes to help you plan your advance directives.

    1. Note: Five Wishes is effective in 42 states. The 8 states that require specific forms are Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.

  2. You can easily view a sample of Five Wishes.