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Advance Directives

August 24, 2021

Advance Directives: What Are They And Why Should You Have One?

In this beautiful thing called life, we don’t know what could happen from one day to the next. Preparing for the worst is a way to ensure that you and your loved ones are protected in the event of an accident. One way to plan for your medical future is an advance directive, which takes your wishes into consideration and communicates them with your family and medical team.

Planning out your advance directive, you can rest at ease knowing that you have a plan just in case the unexpected happens. Anything can happen to anyone, and at any age, which is why completing an advance directive is recommended. Before we get into more detail, we’ll look at what an advance directive is.

What are advance directives?

An advance directive is a legal document that states how you would like medical decisions made in the event that you can’t do so yourself. You can choose a loved one, a CDS caregiver or someone close to you to oversee your wishes, making sure that everything is executed according to what you want.

Anyone can fill out an advance directive at any time, making it something that you could start thinking about just in case the unexpected happens. In thinking ahead, it helps your family understand what you want and do what they can to assure that your life and medical decisions are fulfilled according to you.

In most cases, an advance directive contains a living will, which will let your loved ones and medical team know how you want your medical treatments and life support to play out in the event that you need either one. Knowing what an advance directive is, who should you choose to see that your wishes are fulfilled?

Who should be given medical power of attorney in an advance directive?

The medical power of attorney that you choose is the person that will go to bat for you. When the time comes, they will be the ones calling the shots and making sure that every last wish you want is fulfilled. For that reason, you should choose wisely, going with someone that will get the job done.

Some key things to consider when choosing your medical power of attorney are:

-        Someone willing to work with and stand up to medical professionals when they need to.

-        Someone who will take your wishes into consideration and make sure that they are fulfilled.

-        Someone who is willing to fight even if others disagree with your decisions. You want them to have you in mind at all times, standing up for what you want. 

Many people choose their spouse or their children, though it is not uncommon to choose someone who is not a relative. Good friends are accountable and can also be the ones to oversee your medical treatments and decisions.

Choosing someone that you know and love to oversee that your medical wishes are fulfilled is just one part of the process. You will also need to confirm that the person you choose is willing to act as your medical power of attorney and that they understand what you want. Discuss your wishes and get on the same page so that, when the time comes, they are there and understand what their role is and how they can start. During your conversation, it’s good to know why advance directives are so important, which is what we’ll cover next.

Why are advance directives so important?

Advance directives are an important part of health care for a few reasons. One of the main reasons is that it provides individuals with a sense of security. No one knows when something can happen, as things can change from one day to the next. By filing an advance directive, you’re letting your family know what you want and allowing them to fulfill your wishes.

Not only does it help your family but it also helps your medical team, as they keep your wishes in mind. If something serious happens, your medical doctors will likely consult with your family, letting them know what you want and how they can plan on the best medical treatment for you that will fulfill your wishes.

Many times, when an unexpected event happens and a person's life is at risk, family is left to put the pieces together and scramble to get things done the way they think they should. This could lead to fights as one person disagrees with another and causes a big mess instead of bringing everyone together. Don't let that happen and consider all the key points to filling out an advance directive.

Other points to know about advance directives

Apart from understanding what an advance directive is, there are a few other key points that you should know. Having these in mind will help you get your advance directive complete and know what to expect when you’re ready. Key things to know about advance directives include:

They vary by state

All states regulate their advance directives differently. It’s for that reason why, when preparing an advance directive, it’s recommended to work with an attorney. They will know the laws and make sure that you and your family understand the roles you will take on as stated in the agreement. 

They can be modified

One of the main reasons why many hold off is because they fear that things are set in stone. That is actually far from the truth, as advance directives can be canceled or modified according to the state law in which they are filed. Before canceling or modifying yours, it’s good to check your state laws to find out what the process is and how it works.

You can have them in different states

For those that have a residence in different states, there is no need to choose where you want your advance directive to reside. Those who have residences in multiple states can have advance directives in each state, making sure that they are covered no matter where they go. Laws vary, so it's recommended to have a full understanding of the laws within each state when creating the documents so you can execute them to other parties involved.

Keep all parties in the know

One of the most important parties that you need to inform is your medical power of attorney, as they will be the one who initiates the process and makes sure that your wishes are executed.  Additionally, you will need to ensure that your health care proxy has updated copies of your advance directive so that all parties are on the same page. Everyone wants your life to be as you wanted it to be, working together to do everything in their power to see that it happens.

Provide your doctor with copies

Apart from your chosen medical power of attorney, you should give your advance directive to your doctor and other relevant medical care providers. It is good to discuss with all parties and make sure that everyone knows your wishes just in case the unexpected happens. Your medical doctor is there to provide your family with options, which they can do better if they understand what you want.