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You make decisions every day regarding your health. But have you made any for your care in case of medical emergency or diagnosis? April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), the perfect time to start your advance care planning.

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What is advance care planning? 

Advance care planning is a part of healthy aging, not only for those facing serious illness. It means talking with your loved ones and doctor about the care you want if your condition changes and you cannot speak for yourself.

Why is it important?

You have a right to make decisions about your medical care. But in a time of crisis, you may not be able to speak for yourself. One out of every three people will need someone to make decisions for them at some point. It is best to be prepared. 

The basics of advance directives

An advance directive makes your wishes known for end-of-life or critical care. It includes a living will and a durable power of attorney. The American Medical Association suggests working with an attorney and your personal doctor in filling out advance directives.

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Living will

A living will speaks for you. It outlines your choices for your health care when you are not able to. If the time ever comes, your wishes will be documented when hard decisions have to be made. Be sure to update your living will on a regular basis.

Health care durable power of attorney 

This is a legal document giving someone the power to carry out your medical wishes. The person you choose is known as your agent. Your agent can be anyone who will:

  • Be your advocate. 
  • Talk with your loved ones about your care.
  • Make sure your decisions are upheld.

Creating a plan when you are healthy

You may be healthy when you complete your advance directive. It’s hard to imagine all the scenarios that would require an agent to speak for you. Your wishes may depend on how sick or injured you are. 

Thing to consider:

  • Would you want to rely on a machine help you breathe?
  • Would you want treatment to extend life no matter what condition you might be in? 
  • Would you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops? 

 

Sources:

  • Redmann AJ, Brasel KJ, Alexander CG, Schwarze ML. Use of advance directives for high-risk operations. Annals of Surgery. 2012;3:418-423
  • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
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