Do you have a written plan stating what kind of health care treatments you would or would not want if you could not speak for yourself?
Advance care planning is like planning a road trip to an unfamiliar destination. People approach mapping their route in different ways, but your trip can be made more comfortable by planning ahead. An advance directive is a map detailing where you want your health care “to go,” in the event you are unable to voice your own wishes. It is a written statement of your wishes, preferences, goal and values regarding end-of-life health care decisions. It is only used if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. There are two components of an advance directive.
- Naming of a medical (health care) power of attorney
- Living will
An advance directive should answer the following questions:
- In the event of chronic or serious illness, would you want to pursue every medical avenue available to you?
- What type of pain control do you want, and when should it be administered?
- Do you want to set limits on the type and length of medical treatment?
Death comes in its own way, in its own time. None of us can predict when our final day will arrive. Advance directives are not only for the elderly; anyone 18 years and older should complete an advance directive. By completing an advance directive, people and their families are able to have tough conversations well before the directive is actually needed. It’s equally important to reassess as things change. Early on in a serious illness, you may want to do everything possible to find a cure or prolong life. As an illness progresses, you may want to modify your advance directive and focus on comfort and quality of life.
Please note: Advance directives are state specific. Titles and even laws may adjust, depending on where you live. Be sure you comply with your state’s law when completing your advance directive. Some states do not recognize another state’s advance directive. Other states may honor out-of-state advance directives as long as they are similar to that state’s own law. If you spend a significant amount of time in an additional state(s), you should complete the advance directives for those states, too.
Living Wills or Medical Powers of Attorney cannot be honored by Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). Once called, emergency personnel must take all necessary measures to stabilize you for transfer to a hospital (from an accident site or place of residence). After a physician does an evaluation and determines the underlying conditions, advance directives can then be carried out.
Be bold. Have the conversation and document your wishes, you’ll be glad you did. If you have questions, or would like assistance completing an advance directive, please contact us.
National Health Care Decision Day is held on April 16 each year; this day exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.
Advanced Care Planning Resources & Forms
Aging with Dignity “Five Wishes” Advance Directive Guide
Honoring Choices Minnesota
Honoring Choices North Dakota
National Health Care Decision Day website
Institute of Medicine Conversation Resources
The Best Possible Day: New York Times Opinion article written by Atul Gawande
Cake: the easiest way to discover, share, and store your end-of-life preferences