Do you have Advanced Directives? Do your loved ones know your wishes?
National Healthcare Decisions Day is the day to ask yourself:
- Who will make my health care decisions if I am unable to?
- How will my family know my end of life wishes?
- If my family disagrees, how can I make sure that my wishes are followed?
A person with capacity can communicate their wishes to doctors or hospital staff with regard to their medical care but what happens if you or are unable to do so?
The Health Care Proxy is used to designate someone, called your Health Care Agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf and to communicate your health care wishes to medical professionals. A Health Care Agent is allowed to make decisions when your doctor has determined that you can no longer make those decisions yourself. You should specify in the proxy whether your Health Care Agent should have authority to make decisions on your behalf regarding artificial nutrition and hydration. You also should be sure to appoint an alternate Health Care Agent should the first agent be unavailable or unable to act. Your Health Care Proxy should contain a HIPAA release authorizing your Health Care Agent to have access to your medical records. If an individual has capacity and can express their own health care decisions, the Health Care Agent cannot override those decisions.
The Living Will is a document in which you express your wishes regarding end-of-life care.In a Living Will, you specify your wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining treatments such as artificial nutrition and hydration, pain management, and administration of CPR. The Living Will works together with the Health Care Proxy and the agent named must be the same in both documents. You make your own medical care decisions known in the Living Will; your Health Care Agent simply sees to it that your wishes are carried out by their authority under the Health Care Proxy.
Start this conversation at the kitchen table, not the intensive care unit.
As with all Advance Directives, you should fully discuss your wishes with your loved ones and your doctors.