What's an "Advance Directive" and Do I Need One? | Carson Tahoe Health

What’s an “Advance Directive” and Do I Need One?

An Advance Directive is a written statement that you complete in advance of serious illness about how you want medical decisions to be made. The two most common types of Advance Directive are a “Living Will” and a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.” Here’s a quick breakdown of the two –

• Living Will (also referred to as “Declaration”) – This is a statement specifying the kind of care you want (or don’t want!) in the event that you’re unable to make your own medical decisions.
• Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – This is a signed, dated, and witnessed paper that allows another person, such as your spouse, son, daughter, or close friend to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to do so.

Or, you can opt to have both a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care through something called a “Combined Directive.”

Do I Need an Advance Directive?
Legally speaking, you don’t HAVE to have an Advance Directive.  That being said – if you want to influence the direction of your care, then it’s a good idea to have one. Anyone age 18 or older can create their own. Keep in mind that individuals should only create an Advance Directive if they are competent and capable – for example, don’t wait until you’re already showing signs of dementia to create your Living Will or any other type of Advance Directive. Additionally, because unexpected situations can happen at any age, all adults should have an advance directive. Moral of the story – When it comes to creating an Advance Directive – the sooner you do it, the better!

What Happens to Patients at the End of their Lives if they Don’t Have an Advance Directive?
In this case, the hospital would look for the next of kin to make decisions. Unfortunately, this individual may not be the best person to represent your wishes. To help prevent this from happening – the federal law requires that, when a patient is admitted to the hospital in a nonemergency circumstance, the patient MUST be asked whether they have an Advance Directive, where it is located, and the name of their health care surrogate. Many hospitals also offer a simple directive for patients to complete when they’re admitted.

What are the Common Types of Instructions to Include?
Do you want to be an organ donor? And how do you feel about receiving CPR? When it comes to personal decisions like this, it’s all a matter of preference. And if you want to have a say in critical decisions, then you’ll need to create an Advance Directive. To learn more about organ donations, Do Not Resuscitate Orders, and other care related decisions that you may want to provide direction on, go to http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/living-wills/HA00014.

For more information about Advance Directives, visit here.