Most of us don’t like to think about the possibility of something harmful happening to us or a loved one. Because of this, we rarely think about how to protect ourselves and our loved ones if the worst were to happen. However, just as it is important to buy home insurance to protect your home and auto insurance to protect your vehicle, every individual should have an advanced care directive to protect themselves if they were no longer able to make decisions for their health care, end of life, living arrangements, and various other personal matters.
The basic definition of an advanced care directive is a legal document or group of legal documents in which a person expresses their wishes for healthcare if they no longer have capacity to make these decisions for themselves. Advanced care directives are often comprised of a living will and a health care power of attorney and it is essential you seek the advice of a legal professional when drafting these documents. Every healthcare directive should contain your choice to be your health care “proxy” or agent. This person will be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so. This person should be someone who you are close to and can trust. You can provide direction on life support treatments, artificial nutrition and hydration and organ donation. Advanced care directives play a critical role in managing your end-of-life care decisions and can provide meaningful guidance to loved ones through a difficult and emotional time.
One important factor to keep in mind is that advanced directives are not congruent throughout the United States and laws may vary from state to state. This can often be confusing because one state’s directive may not work in another state. To ensure your wishes are carried out, you should keep your directive as up-to-date as possible to account for moves and life changes. You should also update your directives if your wishes change or if you need to replace your health care agent due to age or change in relationship status. If you choose to make changes, it is recommended that you create an entirely new document.
Advanced care directives are extremely important because they give you a voice when you may not be able to speak on your behalf. If you have questions about anything you’ve read or would like to meet with a legal professional to discuss how you could benefit from an advanced care directive, please do not hesitate to contact our office.