Advanced Directives: Would your loved ones make the right decisions on your behalf?

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It’s not something you want to talk about, it’s not even something you want to think about, but in life anything can happen and it’s important to be prepared. But how on Earth do you prepare for a situation where you are unable to voice your wishes to a medical staff or your family? Between pondering scenarios, trying to decide what it is you would want, inquiring about what options you have, and figuring out what’s best for you, it is easy to become overwhelmed. So, let’s hunker down and focus on a couple of your options; advance directives versus a living will.

Beginning with advance directives, which might sound a little intimidating at first, so let’s break down what exactly an advance directive involves and what benefits it provides.

Health Care Power of Attorney is an advance directive assigning someone power of attorney for your healthcare.

This involves naming a competent adult you would trust to make decisions for you if a medical professional deems you unfit to do so at any point in your life. This does not necessarily mean that exactly what you want done will be carried out because for the most part that is what you would outline in the second part. However, it is assumed that the person you name to represent you medically would know you well enough to make the same calls you yourself would make.

It’s important to discuss your options with a legal counsel because even though this is attempting to explain the importance of preparing for the worst you should still consult an attorney to determine what exactly your options are, and things like how much you could be saving your family financially in medical costs and emotionally in medical decisions by setting up an advance directive. An advance directive can also be useful when putting your affairs in order; maybe you’ve just gotten married, just had a baby, or maybe you’re blissfully single and just don’t want there to be any confusion if things take a turn for the worse. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, even posthumously.

For the sake of a gruesome turn into reality, let’s discuss what taking a turn for the worse entails.

Things such as terminal diseases or freak accidents that one can’t plan for could leave you mute, paralyzed, comatose, brain dead, or in a similar state. This is when having prepared an advance directive will come in handy because everything will have already been set out for your physician. You won’t suffer the consequences of having treatments you didn’t want without being able to object, your loved ones won’t undergo the strain of deciding what to do while grieving your health, and your medical staff won’t have the stress of never knowing whether or not they gave their patient the treatment they would have wanted.

Any of those sound like terrible situations to find yourself in but let’s entertain the first one; not being able to object to medical treatment you don’t want to receive. Sounds straight out of a horror movie but if you are left paralyzed and unable to speak following an accident, the care that the doctor would recommend might go against your personal beliefs but without having prepared any documents explaining this they won’t know any better and go through with it anyway.

This also takes a toll on your family which could be left questioning whether or not they did right by you for the rest of their lives. While on the topic of these situations where an advance directive would be useful let’s delve into living wills.

A living will is a type of advance directive that covers the Greys Anatomy moments of healthcare.

If you missed the reference, it basically includes those dramatic moments found on cheesy medical television shows where the patient can’t speak, and the family has to decide whether or not to “pull the plug.” That’s not the only scenario and it rarely plays out with a room full of model-esque doctors so let’s get down to it.

Would want to be put on a breathing machine or tube fed, which often times if such measures are necessary, the only way for any physicians to know what you would like done is by having prepared a living will. There are also a variety of scenarios where you may have kidney failure that requires dialysis and again maybe you aren’t able to verbalize whether or not you would like those measures to be taken without having a living will.

The overall message here is that advance directives are important and so is consulting an attorney regarding your options. Advance directives are more than just documents, they are a form of protection for both you and your family and so it should be a top priority to get in contact with an estate planning attorney and get these affairs in order.

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