An advanced healthcare directive makes life easier for the people who are charged with the task of making important decisions when a person is unable to make them on his or her own because of a health emergency.
You can choose to have a living will or a healthcare proxy, also known as durable Power of Attorney. The living will specifies the medical treatment you wish to receive if incapacitated, while the Power of Attorney is documentation that specifies a person who will make healthcare decisions if you’re unable to. It’s usually easiest for medical facilities if both a living will and Power of Attorney have been put in place. Even if you don’t have a terminal diagnosis, it’s still important to have advance healthcare directives in place, so you can receive the care you want and need without paperwork, or lack thereof, causing delays.
There are several medical procedures and services that can go onto the list of what you do or don’t want, should the need arise. While a living will can go into specifics, the rest of this article will focus on the more common advance directives.
DNR, or do not resuscitate, is the most critical decision you’ll need to make. If your heart stops or you cease breathing, you’ll need to decide if you want lifesaving measures, such as CPR and/or use of an electric defibrillator, to be taken.
No feeding tubes is another advance directive that can help ensure your wishes are met. You can specify that under no circumstances do you wish to receive your nutrition via a tube. In this area, a person may choose to allow for the use of nasogastric tubes, which enter the nose and snake down to the stomach, but not gastrostomy or jejunum tubes, both of which involve surgically inserting the tube through the abdomen. Different types of tubes are used in different situations, and each has a slightly different effect on the body. Feeding tubes are not always permanent, but they can be.
The DNH, or do not hospitalize, directive is used later in life. When a person has a DNH directive, if they become medically unstable or unresponsive, they will not be transported to the hospital. Should you want to proceed with this directive, it’s a good idea to let your family and/or loved ones know as soon as possible.
While you can specify anything you can think of in a living will, some advance healthcare directives might have to do with medications, while others involve a mental health situation. Medication-related directives may involve specific wishes regarding types of medication or administration method. A psychiatric advance directive describes what you want to happen if a mental disorder ever renders you unable to communicate or make decisions.
It’s best to arrange a living will and advance healthcare directives sooner rather than later, to put your mind at ease and give you and your family one less thing to worry about. If you have a healthcare proxy, talk to that person about what you want and make sure they know about your living will and advance healthcare directives.
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