National Healthcare Decisions Day Emphasizes the Value of Advance Directives
Today is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day to educate and empower the public to take part in advance care planning. Since something can happen to anyone of us at any time, it’s important that everyone over the age of 18 take the necessary steps to ensure their medical wishes are honored.
Years ago, the model for medical treatment decisions was primarily the physician deciding what was best for the patient in circumstances where the patient could no longer make decisions on their own. Today, you have a right to decide, ahead of time, what you would like to happen if certain medical situations arise. These are called advance directives.
If you haven’t thought about advance directives, you’re not alone. Only about a third of U.S. adults have them, according to a recent study. But they aren’t as intimidating as you might think. The process for putting them in place is fairly simple. Here are four steps to guide you.
- Make sure you understand the documents involved. Advance directives consist of both power of attorney for health care and a living will.
- Power of Attorney for Health Care – This is where you designate up to three people that you know to make medical decisions for you if you cannot do it yourself.
- Living Will – Where you provide instructions that describe the kind of care you would want or not want under different conditions, in the event you are unable to make health care decisions and unable to communicate your wishes.
- Take the time to properly fill them out. Talk to your personal doctor about them. Clinics and hospitals have these documents and usually have the resources to help you properly fill them out. Your health insurance company should also have the resources to walk you through creating them.
- Have the conversations. Advance directives start with talking to your loved ones, your health care providers and your friends to make your wishes known. These conversations will relieve them of the need to guess what you would want if you were facing a medical crisis.
- Make sure you have copies. Once you have your power of attorney for health care and living will filled out, make sure you keep a copy in your vehicle and give a copy to people that would be affected. This includes the people you designate as your power of attorney, your personal doctor and any specialists you may see.