Although distressing, talking about what happens before and after we pass away is a necessary conversation. Living wills and advance directives are both legal instructions regarding how we want to be treated medically in case we are unable to make those health care decisions ourselves. They also cover how our assets will be dispersed, how we may want to be laid to rest, as well as any do not resuscitate’ or do not intubate orders. Planning ahead is important for all adults to do, no matter your age or health status. Doing so will alleviate any stress or disagreements caretakers may endure and allow you to receive the medical treatment you desire.
An advance directive is the umbrella term used for a variety of legal instructions placed by the person it is regarding. Depending on which state you live in, there could be different requirements for obtaining one. A living will is the most common advance directive, which is why it can be confusing. To gain a better understanding of the types of advance directives, we will go over two of the most common.
A living will is a written document outlining your medical preferences when it comes to end-of-life care. For example, if you have a terminal illness and find yourself unable to make your own decisions due to cognitive or physical impairments, a living will cover what a health care provider should do going forward. When you make these healthcare decisions, it’s important to consider what you value in life and if they are worth doing to bring your quality of life up. Some people don’t want certain medications or acts done, because it could bring their quality of life down.
This is a legal document naming someone as a health care agent to make specific medical decisions for you if you become too impaired to do so. If something happens and it is not included in your living will, your healthcare power of attorney will make a decision on your behalf. Most people choose their spouse, a family member, or another person who is highly trusted.
DNR’s don’t have to be included in a medical directive–you can simply tell your doctor and they will add it to your medical records. Medical professionals will always try cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if someone’s heart stops or if they aren’t breathing. When people are suffering from a painful terminal condition they may choose to opt-out of this so they don’t prolong their suffering.
While a lot of us have it indicated on our driver’s license whether or not we want to be organ donors, some scenarios can be a bit more complicated. Sometimes, with organ or tissue donations, it’s necessary to remain on life-sustaining treatment until the procedure is complete. There are also options for donating your brain or body for medical research. If there are specifics you want laid out, it may be best to include this in your living will.
Seriously ill patients will be presented with a POLST by their doctors once it is determined they are nearing the end of life. It specifies the type of medical treatment the patient prefers to ensure they live the remainder of their life as comfortably as possible, eliminating worry and suffering for the patient and their family members. Once their preferences has been determined, the POLST will be signed by both patient and doctor.
Advance directives will spare you and your loved ones any stress, conflict, or worry during the last stages of life. All adults, no matter their health status, should create one simply because life can be unpredictable and sudden accidents or illnesses could occur. An advance directive allows you to be the sole decision maker when it comes to medical care.
My Living Wishes wants to make the process easy for you and we have plenty of resources to do so. For instance, did you know you can create an advance directive using an app? The My Living Wishes App makes it easy for users to input their advance health care directive preferences, designate a health care proxy, and share treatment preferences with other users, all while remaining up-to-date with state law. Advance health care directives don’t have to be a morbid thought–think of it as confidently preparing for the future.