The Advanced Directive: What You Should Know
In our last post we talked about the importance of having the tough talk with family members in light of a life-limiting or deteriorating medical condition. The goal for these difficult conversations is to ensure everyone involved is united in regard to the patient’s prognosis. And also, to create a treatment plan that honors the patient’s goals and wishes at the end of their life. While this plan can be informal, there are steps you can take to codify your wishes in the event you can no longer advocate for yourself. Called advanced directives, these legal tools eliminate as much uncertainty as possible for patients, their families, and treating physicians.
Types of Advanced Directives
Advanced directives come in two forms:
- Living Will: This advanced directive allows you to put in writing your wishes about medical treatment should you be unable to communicate at the end of your life. Every state’s requirements for these documents are different. But in general, you should get information on the types of life-sustaining treatments that are currently available. Then you should decide which of these treatments you would and would not want should you be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness.
- Medical Power of Attorney: Of course, you won’t be able to anticipate every possible scenario. A medical power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted individual as a health care proxy. They’ll then be empowered to make care decisions on your behalf. When forming this relationship, it’s important to communicate your broad values about life and death. That way they’ll have the proper context to make these important decisions in accordance with what they think you’d want. A health care proxy should be trustworthy and willing to advocate for you during times of crisis.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has collected advanced directive forms for every U.S. state plus The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. You can download your state’s form here.
Legal Considerations for Advanced Directives
Advanced directives are legal documents that become active when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. The method for exactly how an advanced directive become active varies depending on the state. So you should do your research and understand your state’s requirements ahead of time. And though these are legally binding documents you don’t need a lawyer to help you complete them. It’s important, however, that you follow the directions completely and fill out the document in its entirety. In addition, if you’re like many older Americans and you live in more than one state, you should complete the advanced directive paperwork in every state where you reside.
Benefits of an Advanced Directive
With a completed advanced directive, you’ll have a say in your treatment even if you can’t express your own wishes. And should the unexpected arise, and advanced directive with make your values and wishes crystal clear. But perhaps most importantly, it removes from your loved ones the burden of guessing at your wishes during stressful emergencies. Too often patients have not made their wishes clear and when the time comes to make hard decisions, family members guess and often disagree about what the patient would want. This can result in long-term resentment and conflict that can cause damage for years after the event.
Have Questions? Southland Hospice Can Help
If you or your loved one lives in the greater Phoenix area and have questions about hospice treatments and how they fit into Arizona advanced directives, we’d be happy to help. Give us a call at (602)-497-4100 or fill out the form on our contact page and we’ll get right back to you. These conversations can sometimes seem grim, but they’re so very important. Besides, we plan for so many things in our lives. It only makes sense that we start planning for the moment our lives come to an end.