When you are admitted to the hospital you will always be asked “Do you have an Advanced Directive?” Although it is a very common term in a hospital setting, some people have never heard of an Advanced Directive, but we are here to explain what it is and how you obtain one.
An Advanced Directive is a legal document that states your wishes for medical treatment when you are unable to speak for yourself. An Advanced Directive can be helpful for family members because it will give them specific information of what you do or do not want when it comes to care you will be receiving. Advanced Directives are especially critical when you have more than one family member that oversees your care and you do not want the burden placed on them.
An Advanced Directive is made up of two parts, including a living will and a medical power of attorney, or healthcare surrogate.
- Living Will: This is a document that tells your healthcare team the type of life-prolonging treatments or procedures you would want if you have a terminal condition or are unable to speak for yourself.
- Medical Power of Attorney (Healthcare Surrogate): This document allows you to select a person to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.
When creating an Advanced Directive, it is important that you talk to the person that will be your medical power of attorney, so they understand your preferences. Also, it would be wise to make other members of your family aware of these decisions, as this could be a difficult time for all involved. Oftentimes families do not take the time to create this important document then have trouble down the road when faced with crucial decisions. Please remember, living wills are not just documents to withhold treatment, they also indicate what treatment you do want when you are unable to speak for yourself.
Each state has laws regarding Advanced Directives, and it is important you work with someone that is knowledgeable of these laws. Please note that hiring a lawyer is unnecessary when you want an Advanced Directive, and that a patient advocate can help you fill out the proper paperwork. Advocates can walk you through this process and assure everything is documented appropriately.
It’s never too early or too late to create your Advanced Directive. Take the time now to assure your healthcare wishes are met and your loved ones are not faced with the guilt and conflict that often occurs when faced with a serious medical condition.