Peace of mind: the value of advanced directives
Every day, millions of Americans provide care for aging and debilitated family and friends – from helping with daily living tasks like eating, dressing, and transporting to doctor appointments to more complex matters such as advocating for their loved one’s medical rights and treatment preferences.
It can be challenging and stressful for caregivers to ensure their loved ones receive the care they want and deserve, but what if their treatment preferences are unknown and they can no longer communicate their desire for treatment?
Too often, caregivers are forced to make quality-of-life and end-of-life treatment decisions for unconscious and disoriented loved ones without knowing what they want regarding their medical treatment. To prevent this from happening to you or your caregivers, record your wishes for treatment with an advanced directive.
What is an advanced directive?
An advanced directive is a legal document that explicitly states what medical care you want if you should become incapacitated and who you want to carry out these decisions. The advanced directive provides clear instructions on these measures, ensuring your wishes are met while also relieving your loved ones of the guesswork behind difficult decisions during a stressful time.
Who should get an advanced directive?
Anyone living in South Carolina who is 18 years old or older can create an advanced directive to communicate their treatment decisions in the event of an unexpected injury or illness. People with declining health, terminal illness, and seniors should get an advanced directive as a part of end-of-life planning and to help guide surviving family and caregivers.
If you are a caregiver, you should encourage your loved one to create an advanced directive to establish their wishes for treatment should they become unable to make their own healthcare decisions.
Are there different types of advanced directives?
There are two types of advanced directives. Both are needed and serve different purposes. These include:
- Living Will – A living will provides clear instructions to medical providers what your treatment decisions are should you become mentally incapacitated and unlikely to recover, whether from an illness or injury.
Treatment options include:
- Use of life support equipment, such as dialysis machines or ventilators
- Do not resuscitate orders to prevent CPR if not breathing or the heart stops
- Nutrition or hydration delivery through a feeding tube or IV
- Medications for comfort, such as to manage pain or nausea
- Organ and tissue donation
A living will can be revoked at any time by your designated caregiver so this should not only be clearly stated in the living will but also discussed with your loved ones.
- Durable power of attorney for healthcare/medical power of attorney – A durable power of attorney for health care, or medical power of attorney, is a legal document in which patients designate another individual to make treatment decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.
For a durable power of attorney for healthcare to take effect, your doctor must declare that you are unable to make your own treatment decisions.
How can you obtain an advanced directive?
It isn’t difficult to complete an advanced directive. You can consult with an attorney to draw up an advanced directive, though this is not required. You can download South Carolina advanced directive forms online to complete and have notarized yourself. One should also consider designating a durable power of attorney for finances as well in the event you cannot make financial decisions for yourself.
When should you get an advanced directive?
None of us are promised a day as they say, so the best way to ensure your decisions are known and protected is to complete an advanced directive to guide future treatment decisions.
With an advanced directive, knowing that your medical care will be delivered according to your wishes gives you and your caregivers peace of mind.
Dr. Kelly Lyles specializes in internal medicine. She has cared for patients in the Florence area for many years and has been with HopeHealth since February 2013.