Young age may make us believe we will remain healthy forever. Some even believe that only the aged should plan for future medical care. What if an accident were to leave you incapacitated? What if you succumb to a fatal illness? What kind of medical treatments would you want as your end-of-life care? If you become incapacitated and unable to convey your intentions for medical treatment, advance directives are the primary means by which you can do so.
Even so, only one-third of American individuals have a health care directive. However, a simple medical care directive can give you and your family much-needed mental peace and surety in making medical choices for you when you can not. This article discusses two significant advance directives that can become a legal tool for your future health care.
What are Advance Directives?
When you are no longer in a physical or mental state to express your healthcare preferences, advance directives are legal instruments that allow you to do so. If you become incapacitated and can no longer comprehend the gravity of your medical care decisions, your healthcare agent, caregiver, and family members will take action according to the wishes that you state in your medical directive.
What does it mean for you to die peacefully? Do you want modern, expensive technology like ventilation and tube feeding to keep you breathing, even if it means you will be oblivious to your surroundings? Who must decide on such treatments when you can’t? It can be challenging to understand your wishes if you do not express or spell them out yourself.
An advance care directive aids them in comprehending your treatment preferences and ensuring that you receive care following your desires. If you do not write an advance directive, a court-appointed representative or another person authorized by state law will make healthcare decisions for you, which may not be something you wish to happen.
There are different types of advance directives, either designed by lawyers or you can make one yourself, while others use forms specified in state regulations. The rules to create an advance healthcare directive document may vary from state to state. In some cases, you may even need the signature of a certified healthcare professional, witnesses, and notarization of the advance directive to take effect.
A common misconception about having a directive for future medical care is that only older people should have one. A critical medical situation may occur at any moment, be it an older person or a young adult. The benefits of health care directive are not limited to any particular age group. It is better to remain prepared for the unforeseen.
Benefits of Advance Directives
Now that you know what is advance directives, let’s delve deeper into the benefits of having one.
It helps to let know of your medical treatment choices when you can't
Due to old age or a severe illness, you may become incapable of conveying your medical care wishes in the future. In such cases, your advance medical directive will serve as your voice. You may have a different opinion about the quality of treatment you wish to receive for your end-of-life care than others. You can specifically spell out your wishes legally.
It enables you to prepare for unforeseen medical events
When we are young, we feel invincible but old age and unfortunate health conditions can leave us incapacitated. You can never predict future events related to your health. Your health care directive can help you prepare for unpredicted medical conditions.
It helps your doctor to provide you with better medical treatment
Your health care directive is very helpful for medical professionals and caregivers. There are specific treatments you wish to avoid. Your doctors and other healthcare professionals can better understand your preferences if you have an advance directive. You can let your doctors know your piece of mind about your healthcare choices by writing an advance directive and giving it to them.
It helps to avoid family friction
Your family and loved ones will be comforted by an advance directive. Deciding on end-of-life care might be difficult when your family members don’t know your preferences. Additionally, if your loved one’s opinions do not coincide, it may lead to friction within the family. Preparing an advance directive and sharing it with the people you care about can bring your family together when grieving, as they will be aware of your choices.
Two types of Advance Directives
There are different kinds of advance directives depending on your state and the type of future medical care instructions you wish to specify. A particular healthcare directive may be called differently in other states. However, there are mainly two types of medical directives, A Living Will and a Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
A living will is a legally binding document that outlines your preferences for various medical decisions, such as pain management or organ donation, as well as the medical procedures you would and would not want for your end-of-life medical care. It can guide people who might need to make decisions about end-of-life medical care for you.
If you have a fatal illness and become incapacitated to communicate your preferences, a living will let your doctor know whether you want death-delaying measures taken. Contrary to a health care power of attorney, a Living Will only applies in cases of a terminal illness.
Every state has rules governing a patient’s life-sustaining care. These choices may or may not align with your particular preferences or values. Consider creating a living will if you have strong opinions about when and how you wish to undergo life-sustaining treatment or if you want to avoid it.
Power of Attorney for Healthcare
In a health care power of attorney, you (the principal) can appoint another person (the healthcare agent or proxy) with legal authority to make future healthcare decisions on your behalf. Across many states, this document may go by several names. Selecting a person to handle your medical affairs is crucial.
Someone else may need to make difficult choices about your medical care or treatment in challenging situations. Your proxy or agent can communicate with your healthcare team and other caregivers on your behalf and make decisions following the desires or instructions you previously provided about your future healthcare.
In your health care power of attorney, you can designate your spouse, another member of your family, or a friend as the agent. If the individual you selected cannot perform the task, you may also choose one or more backup candidates.
A living will vs advance directive
A living will is often confused with advance directives. So, what makes a living will different from an advance directive? A living will is a particular kind of advance directive, and the phrase advance directive is used broadly to refer to any legal measures that concern your future medical treatment. Although not all advance directives are living wills, living wills are advance directives.
Lastly, many advance directive questions trouble us. But the most challenging to answer is, what should be included in an advance directive? Consider your values as you write down your wishes. What does a good death or a good medical treatment mean to you? In what circumstance would you desire medical attention to lengthen your life? In an advance directive, you should include a range of potential decisions regarding your final medical care. Talk to your family members and doctors, which is very vital.
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