Advance Directives: What They Are and How to Make Them

Health care preferences are deeply personal and often change as you age. While you’re healthy and independent, it’s crucial that you take time to think about your own preferences for different situations such as aging, advanced illness diagnoses, or sudden medical changes. Advance directives create a clear roadmap for your doctors and family to carry out your wishes if age or illness prevent you from determining your medical care in the moment.

Creating an advance directive ensures that you receive the medical care that you choose, should you become ill and unable to make those decisions on your own. MJHS Health System has compiled some information about advance directives to help you and your loved ones learn more about this essential document.

What Is an Advance Directive?

Very simply, an advance directive is a legal document that details the type and extent of medical care you want if you cannot communicate your own desires due to illness, surgery, or injury. Doctors rely on them when making decisions about the treatments or interventions they provide.

When you write an advance directive, you create instructions about the kind of care you would, or would not want, under different medical scenarios. Your health care providers will refer to your advance directive and administer care in accordance with your wishes.  Providing an advance directive also gives your loved ones peace of mind because they will know your wishes and won’t have to stress about making difficult decisions on your behalf.

Don’t feel overwhelmed about locking in your decisions. You can always update your advance directive to ensure that this document accurately reflects your current needs, desires, and changing medical condition. If you have a chronic medical condition, you may also want to ask your physician if there is anything specific that should be included in your  advance directive.

What are the Components of an Advance Directive?

An advance directive should ideally be prepared by every adult in the event of the unexpected. It is best to complete your advance directive while you are in good health, but it can be updated later if your health or point-of-view about treatment changes. Many people find it best to complete advance directives with the help of an attorney or trusted family member or friend. There are also publicly available forms you can use to write an advance directive.

Ultimately, creating an advance directive should involve thinking through and clearly describing your desires for future medical care. Advance directives typically include:

  • Who will make decisions on your behalf when you can’t, a person called your health care power of attorney or health proxy
  • Whether you approve of the use of CPR and defibrillators
  • Whether you would allow a ventilator to assist your breathing
  • Whether you would allow the use of a feeding tube and intravenous (IV) fluids to receive nutrition and hydration
  • Whether you would like to receive hospice and/or palliative care
  • Whether you would like to participate in organ donation

Have you Chosen a Health Proxy?

Before finalizing your advance directive, review it with your loved ones to ensure that they understand your intentions. Choosing a health proxy is a serious decision, so you will want to be sure that whoever you choose will honor your wishes. Once you are confident in your decision, be sure that your health proxy has a copy of the official, finalized document. It’s also a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure  that your directives are legally valid.

Make your document easily accessible online or in your home so that your loved ones and medical professionals can quickly implement your instructions, if necessary. Keeping the document in a clearly labeled folder usually makes it easy enough for others to find.

Learn More about Advance Directives and Senior Care Options

Advance directives are an important  part of your health care plan. You deserve to determine  the care that is right for you while offering your loved one’s peace of mind that they are following your wishes.

To learn more about advance directives or senior care options in the greater New York area, contact MJHS today.