What You Need to Know about Advance Directives

By Kindred Healthcare

Advance Directives, or Living Wills, allow you to document your wishes for end-of-life medical care. In the event that you become incapacitated and unable to express your wishes, Living Wills guide your loved ones and medical professionals involved in your care when important decisions about life-sustaining treatment must be made.

Patients are asked if they have Advance Directives when they are admitted to a Kindred facility, said Kathee Paradowski, Clinical Informaticist Consultant in Kindred’s Hospital Division.

“The goal of an Advance Directive is to make sure that patients are making informed decisions and that we’re following their wishes,” Ms. Paradowski said.

Once the patient’s wishes have been determined, the physician writes orders based on the patient’s desires and the Advance Directives are entered into the patient’s record.

“Most of our records are electronic and there are PCs in all our patient rooms, so it’s very easy for staff to access each patient’s information at the bedside,” said Paradowski.

To learn more about Advance Directives and what constitutes life-sustaining treatment, you can visit Kindred at Home’s Advance Directives FAQs page here.

How much do you know about Advance Directives? True or False:

Your Living Will cannot guide medical decision-making unless two physicians have certified that you are unable to make medical decisions and that you are in a state of permanent unconsciousness or terminal illness, or another such condition as defined by the state in which you are being cared for.

TRUE. And other state-specific criteria may need to be met, as well. A medical power-of-attorney allows you to appoint a surrogate to make decisions on your behalf, but if you regain your abilities to make decisions, that person is no longer authorized to function in that role.

Each state has different rules about Advance Directives.

TRUE. States have different laws about what constitutes Advance Directives and what information must be included. Advance Directives may go by other names as well in certain states. You can find links to different states’ Advance Directives forms here, a website of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).

If you reside in more than one state, you may wish to fill out Advance Directives for both states. Some states will honor another state’s Advance Directives but that is not always predictable.

You need a lawyer to fill out a Living Will.

FALSE. A lawyer is not necessary, but your Advance Directives must be signed by two witnesses who are not related to you by blood, are 18 and over and are not beneficiaries of your will. A notary public can also serve as a witness. The document must comply with your state’s guidelines and it should be kept in a safe place that is accessible to others (safety deposit boxes are not advised). You should make copies and give them to your surrogate and alternate surrogate.

Emergency medical personnel must honor your Advance Directives.

FALSE. In an emergency situation, there will likely not be enough time for the Living Will to be procured and the necessary steps taken to establish competency, etc. Emergency medical personnel are charged with stabilizing patients in order to get them to a hospital and your Living Will will likely not come into play until that step is taken.

Advance Directives have an expiration date.

FALSE. Advance Directives do not expire, but can be invalidated if you create new Advance Directives. It is wise to review your Advance Directives periodically to be sure they still reflect your wishes.

Kindred Healthcare’s home care and hospice division, Kindred at Home, offers a variety of services to patients and clients in their homes or places of residence. Our home care services range from non-medical to skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and our hospice and palliative care services provide patients with pain management and psychosocial support through chronic and terminal illness.

For more information about Advance Directives and to download state-specific Advance Directives forms, visit www.caringinfo.org.

*Source: www.caringinfo.org

The information contained in this article is not intended to be, nor should it be considered, legal advice.