Thursday, July 17, 2014

Make Your Wishes Known

Complete an Advance Directive

It may be difficult to think about completing an advance directive, but it doesn’t have to be. This is an important step patients can take to ensure their wishes about care are followed should they no longer be able to speak for themselves. In addition to providing patients with peace of mind, it also offers some relief to loved ones, lifting the burden of making difficult decisions if the patient is unable to do so.

Advance directives are legal documents that let others know an individual’s wishes about the type of care they want. The documents allow patients to name a healthcare agent and provide general guidance on his or her wishes. They are only used if the patient becomes unconscious or too ill to communicate. 

Directives can include the following components:

  • Living Will: This set of instructions explains the type of life-prolonging medical care a patient may or may not want, such as receiving CPR, being placed on a ventilator or using a feeding tube or IVs if a patient cannot eat or drink. 
  • Durable Power of Attorney: This is a legal document that names a “healthcare proxy,” which is someone who can make medical decisions for a patient if he or she is unable to do so. This person will represent a patient’s wishes on emergency care and on other medical issues like potential treatment options, blood transfusions, kidney dialysis, etc. Patients also have the right to appoint someone or the same person to help manage finances if they cannot.

Patients are encouraged to submit advance directives each time they go to the hospital to ensure the most current information and wishes are on file. It is not necessary to have a lawyer to fill out these documents. 

For more information on advance directives and advance care planning, talk to your healthcare provider or join Gilchrist Hospice Care for its Advance Care Planning Series. Click here to view upcoming dates and topics. If you’re ready to take the leap and fill out your advance directive now, click here.

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