National Health Care Decisions Day is April 16th, a day set aside to recognize the importance of advance health care planning for you and your loved ones. None of us should underestimate how much peace we can give those around us by simply making our wishes known. Health care professionals, estate planning attorneys, and caregivers recognize the importance of advance health care planning. For us, advance health care planning is part of our daily lives. We work with individuals and families on their Advance Health Care Directives, such as Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney or Medical Power of Attorney, or Designation of Health Care Surrogate. Although routine for us, advance health care planning is uncharted territory for others. This article explains how you can be ready for National Health Care Decisions Day, and it answers many questions about advance health care decisions.
What are Advance Health Care Directives?
Advance Health Care Directives (AHCDs) are written instructions we give family, friends, and our doctors. These instructions tell them how we feel about the health care decisions that might come up when we can’t make decisions for ourselves.
AHCDs take many forms, and they go by a variety of names. A Living Will is an example. Another example is a Health Care Power of Attorney or Medical Power of Attorney. Perhaps, you’ve heard of a Designation of Health Care Surrogate. These are all AHCDs.
AHCDs do not take the place of our own decision making. Rather, they express our decisions. If we’re unable to make decisions at any time after completing our directives, our directives are reviewed to see what we want.
What Questions are Covered in Advance Health Care Directives?
AHCDs tell others what kind of health care we want to receive if we become unable to speak for ourselves. They also allow us to identify who we want making decisions for us. Our health care decision maker is called a Health Care Surrogate (HCS). This person will communicate directly with our physicians and nurses about our condition, treatment, and prognosis. Then, they will work together to decide what we would. Our AHCDs are the written guide that they will follow.
There is another important step, and we can’t overstate how important it is. We must tell our Health Care Surrogate and our family how we feel about our health care. The written AHCDs provide important details and directions to them, but we should also talk to them about it. Our conversations will help them better understand how we feel. This will give them the confidence they need to make the correct decisions.
What Do We Need To Consider?
As we look ahead to completing our own AHCDs, we should consider some of the health care decisions that may come up. And we should consider who we want to make them for us. Let us start with our Health Care Surrogate. This is who will make health care decisions for us when we can’t make them for ourselves. This should be someone you trust. And this should be someone who can handle the weight of the decisions they may have to make. Often, spouses or our children are chosen to be our HCS. However, they may not be the best choice. I have seen instances where siblings, friends, or co-workers have been chosen as HCS. After you’ve chosen your HCS, tell them about your choice, then tell them how you feel about the health care decisions they may have to make.
Next, consider if you want life support. And consider if there are some circumstances when you want life support and if there are some circumstances when you don’t want life support. Also, consider if you want feeding tubes and if there are some circumstances when you don’t want feeding tubes.
Perhaps, we don’t like the idea of life support or feeding tubes. But maybe we want those things if they will allow us to recover and lead a quality life. In those instances, whether talking about life support or feeding tubes, it is important to communicate our wishes to our HCS so that the surrogate can correctly carry them out.
Why Do It Now?
AHCDs are easy to complete, and there is no better time than the present to complete them. If we change our mind, changing our AHCDs is simple. Also, completing our AHCDs gives us time to openly tell our HCS, our family, and other loved ones how we feel about the topics covered in AHCDs. Finally, if we visit a physician, have a hospital stay, or get a checkup, it is inevitable that we will be asked if we have a Living Will. Won’t we feel better if we’re able to say “yes” to that question rather than sheepishly saying “no”. Contact us to help you with your Living Wills and other Health Care Directives.