The new year is the perfect time to think about the past and plan for the future. Many folks believe they only need to make short-term plans and lighthearted resolutions. The truth is that everyone; chronically ill; healthy and old should be making serious plans for their healthcare and related finances. While this may sound confusing and unsettling, planning your advance directives and powers of attorney are uncomplicated and there are simple and organized ways to do just that.
What is an advance directive?
Advance directives are legal documents that formalize a person’s wishes in the event they become terminally ill or severely injured that they can no longer communicate theses wishes themselves. The specifics of this documentation can range from the type of preferred medical care to postmortem wishes. It’s common for doctors to discuss advance directives with patients when they are admitted to the hospital, which is why it’s an important topic to think about ahead of time.
Advance directives are not only important for the person they represent, but they also benefit their loved ones. It can be incredibly difficult to know if the correct decisions are being made when a family member is put on life support for an extended period of time and their wishes have not been made known. Many people already have an idea on whether or not they would want their life extended as long as possible or if they would prefer a more natural death. So why not put in into writing to ensure these wishes will be respected when the time comes?
Types of Advance Directives:
Living Will: States the type of medical treatment a person does and does not wish to receive at the end of life.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order: If a person is unconscious or unable to communicate, this order makes it known that they do not wish to be treated via cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), automated external defibrillator (AED), or breathing machines.
Power of Attorney (POA): A power of attorney is a legal document that grants a person (the agent) the authority to act on behalf of someone else (the principal). This is often used when a person’s illness or disability prevents them from making their own sound decisions. Similar to the benefits of other advance directives, powers of attorney help people make the best possible decisions for their loved ones and bring peace to family member who might otherwise feel as though they have no control of the situation.
Durable Power of Attorney: Effectively gives a person full control of another person’s decisions should they become unable to make them.
Medical Power of Attorney: This gives a person the authority to make difficult medical decisions for another person. The agent essentially takes on the role of patient advocate when that patient loses the ability to communicate.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization conveniently provides advance directive forms applicable to each state, please visit https://www.nhpco.org/advancedirective/