I’ve completed an advance medical directive…now what?
So, I’ve completed an advance medical directive… now what?
Advance medical directives (Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care; Living Will; Five Wishes) are important documents that can offer both practical guidance and peace of mind for your loved ones and your health care providers in challenging circumstances. Writing an advance medical directive is an important first step in planning for your future health care needs. Learn to use them in a way that will be most helpful to you and those around you.
1) You and your agent (the person you have chosen to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so) should both keep your advance medical directives in a place that is readily accessible. This is not a document that you should lock away in a safety deposit box in the bank. If you are in a situation where your agent needs to make a health care decision for you, the health care team will need to see the Durable Power of Attorney form to verify your agent’s identity.
So, consider placing the form on the refrigerator in your house, in your handbag or wallet. Also, you can scan it into your computer and mobile device, so you have a convenient electronic copy. I personally carry both my own and my parents’ advance directives in my bag, which is with me at all times.
2) The most important component of an advance directive is not the formality of a piece of paper, but the ongoing conversations you have with your loved ones. Discuss your wishes, including your choice of agent and your treatment preferences, with your close family and friends. If you have chosen one relative or friend as your agent, make sure that others are aware of your decision as well. The critical moment when a durable power of attorney for health care is executed is not a good time for surprises.
3) Be sure your primary medical providers are aware of your wishes. Remember that the Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will, and Five Wishes documents are reflections of your preferences; they are not medical orders. If you have specific concerns regarding life-sustaining treatment (for example, a wish that you not be resuscitated if your heart and breathing stop), it is imperative that you discuss this with your doctor.
As we approach the season of gift-giving, remember that an advance medical directive is one of the most meaningful gifts you can provide for your loved ones.
About the Author
Rabbi Jodie Futornick is a staff chaplain and ethics consultant at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. She has a Masters’ degree in Bioethics and Healthcare Policy at Loyola University of Chicago and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at the same institution. Jodie is fond of introducing herself as “a Jewish chaplain at a Protestant hospital with a degree from a Catholic university.”