Advance directives, such as living wills, appointing a health care proxy, or power of attorney, are written documents that tell others what your personal, spiritual, medical and legal wishes are should you become seriously ill, or are unable to make decisions on your health. This could be when you are undergoing surgery, have an accident that leaves you temporarily incapacitated, or if you are considering end-of-life care. It lets your medical team and your caregiver know exactly what you want, so they aren’t in the difficult position of having to guess what treatment you may want when you are seriously ill. They also allow you to appoint another individual, including a spouse, domestic partner or other trusted person who understands your health and personal care wishes, to make decisions about your health care if you are unable to make them for yourself. While it may seem difficult to discuss, or make decisions about your care should the unthinkable happen, it makes it much easier for loved ones and your health care provider if they need to make decisions on your behalf.
Guthrie is encouraging its patients to make sure that they have an advance directive in their electronic medical record. These documents, which are written and signed while you are still fully able to express and articulate your wishes, allows you to plan your care if you are temporarily, or permanently unable to make decisions. Completing these documents can be simple – you may not even need an attorney or notary to help you prepare and witness a document.
Discussing the unthinkable is not always easy, and maybe the hardest conversation you ever need to have with your loved ones. Just remember that support is available, and talking now may make it easier for you and your family in the future.
Although advance directives are recognized in every state, it is important to consult the laws of your state of residence prior to creating an advance directive.