What are Advance Directives?
Advance directives are official documents known as a living will and a healthcare proxy. This is different from a last will and testament. Together, these two documents make up “advance directives”.
In these documents, one clearly states their preferences for the health care they wish to receive, or not receive.
One may also give someone of their choice the ultimate authority to make decisions on their behalf. This becomes important if they are unable to communicate their preferences on their own when important decisions must be made.
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study finds that most Americans would prefer to die at home. However only about 30% do, most people are dying in a hospital or institutional setting. Furthermore, a national survey by The Conversation Project found that 90% of people know they should discuss their end-of-life care preferences with family and loved ones. But again, only about 30% actually have that conversation.
It is not easy to get adequately prepared for a time when you may not be able to communicate your wishes for end-of-life care. But it is, however, the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out.
We are hoping that some of the information below will help you. In addition, we hope it helps you feel more informed and comfortable with advance care planning. We hope it helps you take the steps to make sure your wishes are carried out, if and when it is needed.
What is Advance Directive Planning?
Advance directive planning is the process of ensuring your end-of-life care wishes are honored. If you’re unable to communicate your wishes yourself, this planning is important to have completed in advance. Thinking about this type of care isn’t easy. However, it is the first step in getting the peace that comes with knowing your wishes will be carried out by the ones you choose.
These are the three main steps to help you navigate advance directives:
- Think carefully about the type of end-of-life care you want. Know who you would like to carry out your wishes.
- Discuss your preferences with those who are important to you. Those people will honor your choices, including your healthcare provider.
- Document your wishes in a living will and a healthcare proxy. Then, provide copies to anyone who needs them.
We believe that each of these steps are important. However, if you don’t complete the documents, we encourage you to at least discuss your end-of-life care preferences with your loved ones and healthcare professionals. Though it may not be easy, we have yet to hear from anyone who regrets having had these discussions. Perhaps the toughest part is actually starting the conversation.
Why are Advance Directives Important?
Completing advance directive forms allows your family, loved ones, and healthcare team to share the same understanding of your wishes. In other words, it puts you all on the same page. Furthermore, it provides you with the reassurance that your wishes are heard and understood. It also gives the assurance that your desires will be carried out if you are unable to make those decisions on your own.
How does everyone access your documents?
Advance directives are intended to provide documentation of your healthcare wishes and preferences regardless of where you reside. However, the actual documents are often different from state to state.
You may be able to create or modify advance directives online. You may also have an option to store the documents in an online registry. No matter how you create or store your advance directives, it is important to know that your advance directive can be updated at any time and as often as you choose.
What should you do with your completed Advance Directives?
Once your advance directives are complete, it is our recommendation that you:
- Provide a copy to whomever you choose to make decisions on your behalf.
- Also provide a copy to those important to you; loved ones, friends, and your physician.
Keep the documents somewhere easily accessible. In the case of an emergency, it should be available, not locked away somewhere. You might think about keeping a copy in the car with your automobile registration