Empowering Your Advanced Healthcare Decisions

Empowering Your Advanced Healthcare Decisions

Many people don’t think about the medical care they would choose to receive until they are faced with a medical crisis. However, advanced care planning is one of the most crucial yet often overlooked aspects of healthcare. It’s a topic that can bring up many emotions, but it’s vitally important to ensuring that our healthcare preferences are honored, particularly during critical moments. 

Through open dialogue and documentation of preferences, advanced care planning not only provides clarity for healthcare providers, but also offers peace of mind for individuals and their loved ones. It serves as a roadmap for navigating challenging medical situations, ensuring that healthcare interventions are consistent with personal values and desires.

Understanding Advance Directives

Also known as living wills or healthcare directives, advance directives are legal documents allowing individuals to express their healthcare preferences, including medical treatment and end-of-life care, in advance. These documents provide guidance to healthcare providers and loved ones regarding the individual’s wishes for medical treatment, including life-sustaining measures, especially if they become unable to communicate them later. 

Types of Advance Directives

1. Living Will or Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST): A living will outlines specific medical treatments an individual wishes to receive or refuse if they become incapacitated. This may include decisions regarding resuscitation, life support, or palliative care.

2. Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: This document appoints a trusted person, often referred to as a healthcare proxy or agent, to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual if they are unable to do so themselves. The appointed individual must be someone who understands the individual’s values and preferences regarding his or her medical care.

3. Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Orders: A DNR order instructs healthcare providers not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if the individual’s heart stops beating or if they stop breathing. This directive is often included in a living will or discussed with healthcare providers separately.

Why Advance Directives are Important

Advance directives are invaluable tools for anyone seeking to maintain control over their healthcare decisions. By taking the time to create these documents, individuals can ensure that their values and preferences guide their medical care, even in challenging circumstances. Whether young or old, healthy or ill, everyone can benefit from the clarity and peace of mind that advance directives provide. It’s never too early to start planning for the future, and advance directives are an essential aspect of comprehensive healthcare planning. Benefits include:

1. Ensuring Personal Autonomy: Advance directives empower individuals to maintain control over their medical care, even when they are unable to communicate their preferences. By expressing their wishes in advance, individuals can ensure that their values and beliefs guide their medical treatment.

2. Relieving Burden on Loved Ones: Without clear directives, family members may face difficult decisions about medical treatment on behalf of their loved ones. Advance directives relieve this burden by providing clear guidance, reducing stress and conflict during already challenging times.

3. Promoting Consistent Care: Advance directives ensure that healthcare providers understand and respect the individual’s wishes and promote consistency in medical care. This prevents unnecessary treatments or interventions not aligned with the individual’s values.

4. Peace of Mind: Having advance directives provides peace of mind, knowing that one’s healthcare preferences will be honored, even if they are unable to communicate them later.

We encourage you to take charge of your healthcare journey – and encourage your loved ones to do the same – by discussing advance directives with your loved ones and healthcare providers. For more information, visit our Passages page.