Do I Need an Advanced Healthcare Directive?
When you’re young and healthy, you don’t give much thought to your healthcare plans and decisions for life-threatening situations. You would want to control the kind of care and treatment you receive in case you become incapacitated. Thus, you require advanced healthcare directives to gain a complete hold of the kind of healthcare you get at any point in life.
Advance care planning isn’t something for old age as you can face a medical crisis, whether you are 18 years or 95, leaving you incapable of making your own healthcare decisions. Even if you’re not ill now, planning in advance is the best answer to your future medical woes. Before we discuss the benefits, it’s imperative to understand the basics of advanced healthcare directives and who would need it.
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What is an Advanced Healthcare Directive?
It is a legal document based on your healthcare will and power of attorney to deal with your medical wishes for the future. The will specifies the kind of treatment you would or wouldn’t want to undergo in life-threatening situations.
Meanwhile, a power of attorney lets you choose a person to make medical decisions on your behalf, especially when you’re incapacitated. Known as a medical agent or proxy, he could be an adult you trust, but some states don’t allow doctors as your medical agents.
Preparing Your Medical Will
Drafting an advanced healthcare directive requires a bit of learning. You need to know the types of decisions you make for end-of-life care. Considering those decisions, you must notify your healthcare provider, family, and friends about treatment preferences.
These preferences are logged into your directive and come into effect only when you’re unable to make decisions or speak for yourself. Your incapacity could be due to a disease or severe injury, regardless of your age. Letting others know your desires can help them get the best medical care that is in line with your beliefs and values.
Your advanced healthcare directive is a living document entailing your values and preferences for medical treatment. Thus, it’s adjustable in accordance with new developments, changing health care facilities, and your medical conditions.
Research shows, those with advanced health care directives are more likely to get the preferred medical treatment as end-of-life care compared to those who do not.
While making your healthcare will think of treatment methods you want to have in case of a medical emergency. It is better to talk to a doctor and discuss your health conditions as it will directly affect the treatment plans.
Your doctor will help you understand various treatments and help you choose the most suitable ones before you put them in writing. Medicare and other private insurances cover the cost of these medical discussions and your yearly wellness visits.
If you’re not suffering from any medical ailments at the moment, your doctor can take clues from your family's medical history. An advanced healthcare directive will help you spell out your choices and provides instructions when your medical conditions alter or change.
Making Your Wishes Known
Advanced healthcare directives have two elements ---power of attorney is the latter part of this legal document. It helps you name a reliable healthcare proxy to take responsibility when you become incapacitated. He should be respectful of your choices and familiar with your values when it comes to medical treatment as end-of-life care.
He will able to foresee the kind of medical treatment you will or will not require and make decisions on your behalf. He can evaluate each life-threatening situation individually and consider different treatment plans before reaching a conclusion.
If you’re planning to choose a health care proxy, then talk to your friends, family, lawyer, or anyone you trust. It’s advisable to name an alternate healthcare proxy, especially if you have a detailed living will. You can even decide the amount of authority each proxy holds when it comes to making decisions on your behalf.
Once you’ve made the decision, consult them before officially naming them in your directive to ensure they’re ready for the responsibility.
During life-threatening situations, doctors have to opt for difficult medical procedures to keep you alive. But these medical treatments have their own side effects and failures, thus require a medical agent or proxy to make decisions on your behalf. Typically, medically decisions revolve around:
- Use of ventilator
- Artificial and intravenous feeding methods
- Comfort care
They also take financial decisions while you’re incapacitated. Typically, married couples find it inept as they consider their spouse to make those decisions. You may not need it if you both are listed on the same accounts. But if you’ve separate accounts, your spouse would need a power of attorney to write a check and pay bills, while you’re unable to do so, and keep the financials running.If the power of attorney document doesn’t exist, the fact that the person is your spouse holds no value until they receive legal authority from the court. If someone else is potentially interested in accessing your funds, then the bar for conflict raises.
Who Needs an Advanced Healthcare Directive?
There is no general rule as to whether you need an advanced healthcare directive or not; the decision is ultimately yours. The more strongly you believe in medical care during end-of-life situations, the more important it becomes for you.
It is also vital to have a medical directive, in case your doctor doesn’t approve of your choices and believe in the same values. This legal document requires medical practitioners to uphold the terms and conditions, even if they do not approve of it.
Unless your preferences contradict the state laws, for instance, if you’ve directed to administer excessive painkillers leading to death---but if state policies don’t approve of assisted suicide, this portion of your will would not be followed. But in other instances, your health care agents or proxy can challenge the decision in court if medical providers fail to follow the instructions.
Leaving the decision entirely on your family and doctors, during life-threatening situations, can result in conflict and stress; therefore, you need an advanced directive. It contains the instructions for such scenarios and appoints someone to ensure that they follow directives as per the circumstances.
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