You may feel that only older loved ones need to prepare for the inevitable, but incapacitating accidents or illnesses can affect you anytime and at any age. This is indeed something we would rather avoid considering. Still, having legally prepared an advance health directive allows you to effectively prepare (for you and your family) should the unexpected occur.
No matter what the reason, if you or an older loved one are no longer able to communicate or yourself, your family and medical team should know your wishes about your preferred treatment and much more. An Advance Care Directive is a way to outline what healthcare treatments you would prefer or not, should you find yourself in a position where you are seriously ill or injured and unable to communicate.
Depending on your circumstances, there are many things that your professional elder law attorney might advise you to include in addition to, or combined with, your advance health directive, but some of the most common are:
- A living that will outline your wishes and directions if you die.
- A durable power of attorney (or medical power of attorney)for your health care treatments.
- A POLST directive (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) to show what you want to be done.
- A “do not resuscitate (DNR) order if you desire.
- Any directives for organ and tissue donation, and more.
It’s crucial to note that an advance directive is commonly only used if your condition limits your mental or physical capacity to make these health (or other) decisions on your own. So, typically, only when you are seriously injured or have a health condition that puts you in danger of dying and you need specific emergency or extraordinary measures to keep you alive. The advance directive becomes a valuable legal tool that allows you to make your wishes about medical treatment or other vital matters known when you cannot communicate them.
What Is the True Legal Function Of an Advance Health Directive?
Most advanced health directives fall primarily under the medical ethics concept of autonomy and patient self-determination. Also, there are other ethical concepts such as beneficence (doing good for the patient), nonmaleficence/non-malfeasance (“do no harm”), and more.
In many families and hospital scenarios, conflict can occur between these ethical principles and make decisions even more stressful and challenging in an emotionally explosive situation.
Advance directives serve as written instructions to allow you (or an elder loved one) to express their wishes and retain a modicum of control of their treatment. Remember, however, that any advance health directive can only be used if you (or your loved one) are incapacitated during or near their end.
All the legal documents that may make up your advance health directive are based on the concept of precedent autonomy and would follow your demands dictated at an earlier time when you still possessed the capacity to make them.
Advanced directives are also invaluable to your health care surrogate and providers in their attempt to treat you (or your loved one) according to your presumed wishes.
By consulting with a professional, empathetic, and competent elder law attorney, you can plan for uncontrollable events that may occur or for the inevitable events that will happen. This will save your family from making these gut-wrenching decisions and even fracturing family ties.
What If My Loved One Won’t Create an Advanced Health Directive?
This is a common occurrence, but the underlying reasons may differ. There are numerous psychological and other barriers to thinking about an advance directive. For example, you may feel it’s unnecessary at this time or don’t want to think about death, serious illness, or burdening people. One of the main reasons is not knowing enough about advance health directives and their importance.
If you, or your loved one, are in this situation, it may be helpful to think about the following question: do I, or my loved one, have an advance health directive, and if not, why not?
The answer may lead to clues as to why you, or your loved one, hasn’t investigated this vital issue.
You should make it clear that many vital healthcare decisions are made when people are temporarily unable to make their own decisions because of even a treatable illness or injury. You have a right to forgo advance care planning, but people need to know that in today’s health system, they will receive maximal medical care if they fall seriously or are even terminally ill.
Usually, as stated, the real issue is that you or your loved one need to learn more about the value of having an advanced health directive in place when needed.
By consulting with a local Worcester elder law attorney, you can go over all the details concerning the formation of an advance health care directive and why (in your particular situation) you should do so. Obtaining informative, professional advice will overcome many barriers to this decision and help you move forward with this truly vital legal tool.
What Are The Common Challenges With an Advanced Health Directive?
As with all legal tools, there can be challenges with health directives, but usually, they can be overcome.
For example, most advance directives have limitations. For example, an elder loved one may not wholly comprehend their treatment options or recognize the consequences of certain choices.
Also, at times, you (or an elder loved one) may change your mind after forming an advance directive, but you must remember to inform others about the change.
Also, one major drawback to your advanced directive is that it is a piece of paper. Your doctor, hospital staff, or even your family might not know of the existence of your advanced directive, and it might not be produced in time to be used.
In this situation, you must consult with a knowledgeable elder law attorney so that they can help to ensure that your current and valid advance health care directive is produced and utilized when it is most needed. Also, all your doctors, hospital staff, and family know your wishes.
I Want to Know More About Advanced Health Directives; How Should I Proceed?
First, remember that it’s not only elderly loved ones who require advance directives. The uncomfortable but actual reality is that young and middle-aged adults may also be forced to confront severe injury or illness at any time.
So, you must obtain the professional information that you need and prepare to protect yourself and your family from confusion and horrible emotional stress if the worst occurs. Consult with your local Worcester elder law attorney as soon as possible, and don’t leave your or your family’s future to chance.