Planning for an unforeseen future can be difficult in general for many of us. As we get older, the necessity to make sure all of your personal affairs are legally documented are important as they provide a type of guide for how you would like things to happen once you have passed away. Contrary to what some may think, these types of end-of-life documents aren’t just necessary for the elderly, but anyone who wants to have a say in their medical treatment at any point in their life. At Abraham Family & Geriatric Medicine, our providers counsel patients to help them make the big decisions regarding their preferences for their healthcare treatments in the event they aren’t able to speak for themselves. To help give patients a better understanding, our providers share their thoughts on the answer to one of the most common questions we hear from patients: Why are advance directives important?
Advance Directives 101
What are advance directives?
- Advance directives, or also known as a living will, are legally-valid written documents that specifically instruct out your end-of-life medical care wishes. Advance directives tell doctors and caregivers how to proceed with your healthcare treatment in the event you become terminally ill, injured, in a coma, in late stages of dementia, or nearing death.
How do I get my advance directives?
- To complete your advance directives it’s best to check your state’s requirements (links to specific forms are generally found on the American Bar Association or the National Hospice websites). All advance directives must be in writing and depending on where you live, may need to be signed by yourself and a witness and/or notarized. Having a lawyer is not typically needed to assist with the process but we certainly encourage patients to discuss the advance directives process with their doctor to ensure completion.
Do I need advance directives by a specific age?
- We like to recommend all adults consider advance directives (not just for the geriatric community) because sometimes tragedy can occur without any warning and at any stage of life. Rather than leave your loved ones or those closest to you with the potential burden of having to make tough decisions when emotions are already high, you can have it explicitly spelled out. It takes all of the guesswork out of what should be done and ideally will have already been shared with your friends/family so they are prepared should the time ever arise where your advance directive is required.
What should be done with my completed advance directives?
- Once you have completed your advance directives, there are a few key suggestions we recommend:
- Keep the original in a safe place (but don’t make it too difficult to get access to)
- Provide a copy of advance directives to your doctor
- As a secondary recommendation, you should consider naming a person to be in charge of making decisions for you when you’re not able to. Typically called a health care agent or health care proxy, this person can be a spouse, family member, friend, or even a member of the community. Since not all sickness and illness can be anticipated and some situations may require a quick judgment call, having a named health care agent who is knowledgeable in your wishes and above all confident in their abilities to make these decisions, is important.
- Keep a record of all persons who have a copy of your advance directives.
Can advance directives be changed?
- Absolutely! Advance directives never expire and are effective until you make changes (in which time the older version of the advance directives become invalidated). To make changes you’ll have to complete the process again, just be sure to distribute updated copies to all affiliated parties to ensure the most up-to-date information is on file.
If you or your loved one is interested in discussing advanced directives or the geriatric and family medicine services we provide , don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ben Abraham or one of our experienced providers today. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for health-related tips and topics.