As a Certified Life Empowerment Coach, one of the things I speak about with clients is the peace of mind that creating an Advanced Directive can offer. As you get older, you don’t want to wonder, or worry about, who will speak for you, if you can’t speak for yourself, in deciding your healthcare. Creating an Advanced Directive ensures that you’re wishes will be heard even if your voice no longer can. Here’s how it works…
An Advanced Directive Can Give You Peace
Simply put, an Advanced Directive establishes a Durable Power of Attorney, or DPA – a person whom you designate to carry out your healthcare wishes and speak for you when/if you’re no longer able. This can be your spouse, your child, your sibling, or another relative, or even a friend, whom you trust. Note that your doctor cannot usually become your DPA unless they are also a relative. Your specific state has more guidelines about who can be your DPA. Once you choose him/her, your DPA signs a written statement and are sworn into position by a Notary Public.
You can also assign secondary DPA’s to act if/when the primary is not available. Note, that a DPA for healthcare is not the same thing as a DPA for your finances. You can, however, designate the same person to fulfill both roles but you must have separate, notarized documents for both positions. Your DPA should be someone you trust and understands your wishes, someone who lives nearby and who can step in quickly when the time comes.
Your DPA for healthcare can only enact your healthcare wishes when you have been medically deemed incapable of speaking for yourself. Being unable to speak for yourself can occur as a result of a terminal illness when the condition takes a turn for the worse. You may slip into a coma, or permanent vegetative state, and no longer are conscious enough to communicate coherently with your doctor.
It can also occur suddenly from a car accident, or other traumatic event, a stroke, or even the end stages of certain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s, or MS that may leave you unable to communicate your wishes. If you cannot communicate your wishes to healthcare personnel, they don’t know if you want to be resuscitated, or kept on life prolonging ventilators, dialysis machines, intravenous feedings, medications, etc, and they will act in accordance with prolonging your life at all costs, regardless of your condition.
In addition, family members may not be in agreement with certain life-prolonging measures and, without an Advanced Directive, your family would need to get a court order to stipulate what life prolonging measures could be used. Note, though, that your DPA cannot make medical decisions that are not in your Advanced Directive’s Living Will.
The Living Will part of your Advanced Directive establishes what exactly your healthcare wishes are. It will include things like:
1. Do you want to be resuscitated in the event of a life threatening medical event?
2. If you want to be resuscitated, do you wish to be intubated as well?
3. Do you want your life to be prolonged on life support systems?
4. Do you wish to receive every possible means of prolonging your life or only comfort care?
These are only a few of the questions you will need to answer in establishing your Living Will part of your Advanced Directive. Some are little more complicated than others, so you might want to go over them with your spouse, your kids, your doctor, the person you want to be your DPA, and maybe even your lawyer. Most doctor’s offices, hospitals, and usually libraries carry the Living Will/Advanced Directive paperwork. You can even put a completed copy of your Advanced Directive proactively in your medical chart at your doctor’s office. If you want more information about them, visit the government’s MedLine website.
Having an Advanced Directive can really bring you peace of mind when you no longer have to worry about your future healthcare wishes being followed. Designate your DPA for healthcare, answer the medical questions stating exactly what your wishes are, get it notarized, give your DPA a copy, then file them in a safe place. Then you can forget about them and go out and have a beautiful day!
Dale Brown, B.S., M.A., C.E.C.
Certified Empowerment Coach