Do you know what an “Advanced Health Care Directive” is or even how to fill one out so it stands up when the hospital needs it? Have you ever thought about what would happen if for some reason you or a loved one was no longer able to make health care decisions and how they will be handled? Are you covered and does your family member know what your health care wishes are if you become unable to say’s what you would like? Even someone who is awake may not have the ability to tell health care personnel what their wishes are if things were to get worse. Having an Advanced Health Care Directive on hand or better yet, on file at the hospital you frequent guarantees you or your loved one will have their wishes meet if something were to happen to them. It protects your right to request and to receive only the medical treatment you want.
An Advanced Health Care Directive gives you the chance to appoint someone you trust “your agent” and who knows your wishes the ability to make decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make them for yourself. The directive can cover everything from possible, surgeries, organ donation, medications, life support and much more. It is best that once you complete the forms, make copies and hold off on having you or your witness(s) sign every copy until you have a Notary Public present which will then make your directive a legal binding document. It is suggested that you provide copies to your hospital, your acting agent, lawyer and any other family members you feel necessary. “For more information on notarization’s check with your local government office for details on what is required in your area.”
Click the following link to access each states Health Care Directive web site
The following check lists were copied from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Television Health Series, located at http://www.rwjf.org/newsroom.
The Agent’s Role in End-of-Life Care Mar 28, 2005
Checklist: How to Choose and Work With an Agent
Here are some things to consider when choosing and working with an agent.
- Not everyone makes a good agent. The ideal agent is assertive and not afraid to ask questions. Keep this in mind when choosing an agent to represent you.
- Don’t designate an agent without knowing whether that person wants the responsibility. If possible, designate an alternate agent, in case your first choice is unable to serve when the time comes.
- Clarify to your health care providers the role you want your agent to play if you get ill.
- Prepare and sign the appropriate forms for your state. Make sure that your agent, physician and anyone else involved with your care has a copy.
- Ask your physician how he or she has worked with agents in the past. What problems arose? How can you ensure that such problems won’t occur with your agent?
- Talk to your agent to communicate your wishes regarding end-of-life medical treatment. Clarify how much treatment you would want at the end of life. Have your agent repeat your words back to you to ensure that he or she understands your desires. Such conversations may help to diminish the agent’s potential guilt and anguish over whether he or she is doing the right thing when the time comes.
Checklist: How to be a Good Agent
A health care agent is an important role and, ideally, one that is taken on only after much thought. Here are some things to consider.
- The agent has the power to make medical decisions—not only end-of-life ones—if the patient loses the ability to do so on his own. This may vary state to state. Carefully read the form that appointed you as an agent to see if there are requirements or limitations imposed by the state, such as needing knowledge about the patient’s wishes regarding artificial nutrition and hydration (tube feeding).
- Have open discussions with the person you will represent to ensure you understand his wishes. What are the person’s views on medical technology? How much medical care would the person want if he were diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible illness, and unlikely to speak again?
- Educate yourself about the patient’s illness to help you anticipate potential decisions you may ultimately have to make.
- A good agent is assertive. Don’t be intimidated to ask questions. If you don’t understand the medical terminology a provider uses, ask for clarifications.
- Speak up if you feel that health care providers are not respecting your role as an agent.
- Find what type of support you will get from the hospital, and who to go to if you run into problems while acting as an agent.
- Make sure that your role as agent is clear not only to the medical community, but to the person’s family as well to avoid conflict when difficult end-of-life decisions must be made.
I hope this information can make this easier for those going into this type of situation. It is best to have the Advanced Health Care Directive completed, notarized and on file with everyone involved prior to it being needed. As mentioned check into your local city and state requirements when completing the documents so there are no issues when the time arrives. Also, let your loved ones know your wishes ahead of time so it can make it an easier decision for them. Thank you for taking the time to read my postings.
AUTHORS BIO: Richard is a trifecta caregiver, along with his wife he cares for himself, with Chronic Back Pain which he’s had for 21 years. He cares for his brother in-law, Robert who has dealt with Epilepsy his entire life now lives with Richard and his wife. He also advocates for his mother who has various cardiac related issues, severe hearing loss and other medical issues. You can read about his experiences with chronic pain and how he deals with his mothers and brother in-law’s issues on PickYourPain.org or at Caregiving.com. He is also involved in several of Caregiving.com’s support groups and chat rooms, he is co-host of an internet based radio show about caregiving. Richard is also a patient adviser, board member for Intake.me which is working to improve the intake process at medical facilities. Richard has three adult children who despite them having to deal with his medical issues growing up, he says, “They turned out better than I’d hoped for.”