What Does an Advance Care Directive Mean?
Why planning for end-of-life care is important
Put simply, an advanced care directive is an important document that includes your healthcare wishes in the event you aren’t able to express your desires. Although they are never easy decisions to make, advance care directives can help your family and care providers act according to your wishes.
This article lays out what an advance care directive means, what it might include, and how hospice care can provide peace and comfort at the end of life.
What exactly is an advance care directive?
In the United States, an advanced care directive is a legally recognized document that sets instructions for your family and care providers as to what sort of medical care you would want in the case of terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. Although it is an uncomfortable topic, it is important to think about these situations while you are healthy and able to make sound decisions. Creating an advanced care directive can help alleviate stress and tension between family members and care providers and help those individuals act according to your wishes.
5 things an advanced care directive should include
Ultimately, your care directive is your personal document and can include anything you wish. Experts can help you to decide which sorts of things you should include according to your personal needs, but almost all would agree these five things are most important.
1. Your living will
A living will should include all your wishes for medical treatment should you be unable to make those at the time of need. Things to consider might be CPR, ventilation, tube feeding, medications, hospice care, organ donation, or other treatments to attempt to prolong your life. Talk to your primary care provider if you have questions about any of these medical decisions.
2. A power of attorney
A power of attorney is someone who you appoint to make your medical decisions if you are unable to do so. It is someone who would speak on your behalf about decisions not clearly listed in your living will. This person should be someone whom you trust and who is willing and able. You are also able to appoint alternatives in the event your power of attorney is unable to make your decisions. Consult with a professional regarding the specific rules and regulations of power of attorneys.
3. Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
POLST forms are typically used for individuals who have already been diagnosed with a serious illness. It is a doctor-ordered form that ensures you receive the care and treatment you prefer at the end of life. A medical professional typically fills out the forms based on your advanced care directive and your current medical state. (mayoclinic.org).
4. DNR orders
DNR or do not resuscitate orders are signed by you to solidify that in the event your heart or breathing stops, you do not want measures taken to keep you alive. This might include CPR or mechanical ventilators. In a medical setting, this will be kept in your chart and records. Outside of a medical setting, paramedics, first responders, and other individuals typically will not know of your DNR status unless you wear it as a bracelet or have a visible card.
5. Organ donation
Your wishes for organ and tissue donation can also be kept within your advance care directive. This will let your care providers and your family know whether or not you wish to donate your organs and/or tissue in the event of brain death. These wishes may also be expressed on your driver's license or on an organ donor card.
There are several things to consider when developing an advanced care directive. It is important to consult with your doctor on any questions you may have regarding medical treatment. If you are ready to start preparing your advanced care directive, you might consider contacting a lawyer. Other resources might include state legal aid offices, state bar associations, local nonprofit agencies, foundations, and social service agencies.
How can hospice care help with end-of-life planning?
Hospice care is available to provide comfort and support to individuals, and their families, who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of six months or less. Researching what hospice care providers are available in your area can help you have a plan set in place, should you be diagnosed with a life limiting illness.
Ethos Hospice provides care in the communities of Fargo/Moorhead, Grand Forks, Detroit Lakes and surrounding areas. Hospice services might include support and comfort for patients and their families, pain management, medication management, life-enriching services, family bereavement support, and more. If you are interested in learning more about Ethos Hospice, please contact us at (701) 515-0240 or fill out an online form.
September 6th, 2023 | By Kaylee Yamry