Letting Your Healthcare Wishes Be Known With An Advance Directive

Advance directives might not be a fun or comfortable topic of conversation, but it’s an important discussion for families to share, especially as we get older.  At some point, you may not be able to speak for yourself.

What is an Advance Directive?

Advance directives are legal documents that outline how you’d like to be cared for in the event that you cannot make your own healthcare decisions.

Advance directives are documents that tell others how you want medical decisions to be made regarding your care if you can’t speak for yourself.  Advance directives allow you to provide instructions in cases where you may be unconscious, in a vegetative state or impaired by dementia or other health conditions.  These legal documents tell your family, friends, and healthcare providers what kind of care you want, what you don’t want, and who you would like to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if needed.

Living wills and durable power(s) of attorney are two types of advance directives.

There are different ways to get these messages across.  A healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney is a document that names someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t because you’ve become incapacitated.  A living will is a document that says which treatments you want if your life is threatened, including whether you want things like breathing machines or tube feedings to be used to prolong or save your life.  A Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR)order can also be part of an advance directive to stop any measures from being done to save your life.  Be default, hospital staff and emergency medical providers try to help people whose hearts have stopped or who have stopped breathing; saving lives is what they do!  They will administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) unless an advance directive tells them not to.  You can fill our a DNR order and request not to have CPR performed if your heart stops or if you stop breathing.  Other advance directive orders can direct your organs to be donated.

Where Can You Get An Advance Directive?

Advance directives can be provided by your attorney or paralegal, or your physicians office.  LEARN MORE about advance directives at Community Memorial Hospital’s Ethics in Healthcare event, “Advanced Directives for Foodies,” taking place Wednesday, April 17th at 5:30 p.m. at the Museum of Ventura County.  The event, moderated by Dr. James Hornstein, will offer participants the opportunity to ask questions and complete advance directives, if desired.  CLICK HERE for event details and RSVP information.

What To Do With Your Advance Directives

  • Keep original copies where you can easily find and access them.  Let your proxy, spouse, adult children, relatives or a friend know where they are.
  • Give copies to your attorney, physician, hospital, nursing home, relatives and friends.  These directives can be part of your medical record.
  • Carry a card in your wallet that says you have an advanced directive.

It’s always best to plan for long-term care and to review your advance directives every few years to see if you want to make changes, in case things change in your life.  You can also talk to your doctor about how your current health conditions might influence your health in the future, so you know what to expect.  It’s never to late to make your wishes known.