It can be difficult to imagine a time when you or your loved ones will face making end-of-life care decisions, and it may be something you’ve put off doing. A quick 30-minute conversation with your doctor can help you find peace of mind knowing your wishes for your healthcare will be honored, and can help your loved ones in future situations.

Make 2019 the year you and your loved ones make your wishes known. It may be that you’ve given some thought to Advance Care Planning, but haven’t acted on it yet, or it may be something you’re not familiar with. Either way, the New Year is the perfect time to be proactive about your health and the health of your family.

What Is Advance Care Planning? 

Advance Care Planning is a process that begins with speaking with your physician for about 30 minutes to learn about common end-of-life decisions. You can ask questions and consider your options, then discuss your feelings with your loved ones. Your physician assists you each step of the way, and once you’ve arrived at a decision, you should put your wishes into writing through an advance directive.  

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How Does an Advance Directive Work? 

Should you ever become incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself, your advance directive will become a legally binding document instructing family members and healthcare professionals how you wish to be treated. Regardless of the current state of your health, the National Institute on Aging recommends that all adults create an advance directive.

Creating an advance directive can feel like a daunting task – there are countless medical conditions we could eventually be faced with, and it’s impossible to predict what may happen in the future (although talking to your doctor about family history and current conditions such as cholesterol and blood pressure is a good place to start). 

While each state has its own advance directive, Five Wishes is one of the most widely used, as it is both comprehensive and easy to use. This 12-page document is legally binding in 42 states and covers a variety of scenarios – from whether you wish to utilize life support while in a coma, to which personal care treatments you’d like to receive, such as hair brushing or nail clipping. The document contains five categories, or wishes, which are:

  • The person I want to make care decisions for me when I can’t
  • The kind of medical treatment I want or don’t want
  • How comfortable I want to be
  • How I want people to treat me
  • What I want my loved ones to know

Within each category there are checklists and spaces to write in your preferences, including your wishes for after you’ve passed away.

Does an Advance Directive Waive My Rights? 

Creating an advance directive will not nullify your durable power of attorney, if you’ve appointed one. In fact, the two can work in tandem to ensure you receive the care you want if you’re unable to speak for yourself. If you haven’t already appointed a durable power of attorney through your state’s legal process, you can appoint a healthcare agent through Five Wishes. 

If you choose to appoint a durable power of attorney or healthcare agent, they should be someone who you love and trust, such as a spouse, sibling or child. This person should be familiar with your advance directive, along with your personal beliefs and values. Before asking someone to be your durable power of attorney or healthcare agent, you should have an in-depth discussion about all of your wishes and preferences.

It isn’t easy to talk about end-of-life care, but doing so helps you maintain control, regardless of the situation. When you and your loved ones make your preferences known, you can find peace of mind knowing your wishes will be honored, and knowing that you’ll be able to make the decisions that your loved ones would want you to make for them.

If you’re interested in receiving a free copy of Five Wishes, please call 1.866.KINDRED.

By Caroline South