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I’ve completed an advance medical directive…now what?

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.

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  1. Lisa Parro

    Even though it can be uncomfortable to talk about, making your wishes known to your loved ones is crucial. Thanks for shedding light on this important topic.

  2. While keeping your medical practitioner informed is iimportant, the reality is that often your primary care physician is not present or involved during hospitalization involving a medical emergency. Also, given my experience with my father being in a strange hospital, it was disconcerting to see him presented with the option of a “do not resusciate” order at a time when he was confused and not well. The order didn’t specify under what circumstances the order would apply. Bottom line, take someone who is close to you and knows your wishes with you to the hospital. Obviously, that’s not always possible, but it is the best alternative when possible.

    • Jodie Futornick

      Tom, You raise a very important issue here. In addition to a written document, it is very important to have someone available to advocate for you and your wishes when you are vulnerable and dealing with a medical issue, in or out of the hosptial. If that person is not your health care agent, he or she can be of vital assistance in facilitating communication between your health care providers and your designated decision-maker. Even if you still have the ability to make your own health care decisions, an extra set of eyes and ears is invaluable in helping to process information in a stressful situation.

  3. First, I have a Power of Attorney for Medical Care. Second, I’ve tried explaining it to friends and when I saw the article, they came immediately to mind. Hope you don’t mind but I’ve taken excerpts from Ms. Futornick’s article and will put it on my wordpress site. Of course, I will give all due credits to Advocate Health Care and Ms. Jodie Futornick.

    My blog is listed above if anyone cares to check my additions to the discussion.

    Thank you for all that you do.

    • Jodie Futornick

      Thank you so much for your words of affirmation. I’m happy you were ab;e to incorporate my words into your own message. All the best, Jodie

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About the Author

Jodie Futornick
Jodie Futornick

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.”