Three Reasons to Discuss Advance Directives

No one likes to talk about the “what if” healthcare situations that can arise from serious accidents or illnesses. However, talking about what matters most to you in the event of a healthcare crisis is one of the most important conversations you should have. And, it’s best done when you’re healthy and able – not when something traumatic happens or your health takes a turn for the worse.

Advance care planning is important for your peace of mind and for the people you love. It involves making future healthcare decisions that include much more than deciding what care you would or would not want; it starts with expressing preferences, clarifying values, identifying health care preferences and selecting an agent to express healthcare decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Advance directives are legal documents in the advance care planning process which allow people to specify in writing what they would want if they no longer have the ability to communicate their wishes to others. An advance directive generally includes a living will and names a health care proxy.

  • The living will states your wishes about your health care if you cannot speak for yourself
  • Your health care proxy is someone you name to act on your behalf regarding your medical treatment if you are unable to speak for yourself.
  • Advance directives only go into effect if the individual is unable to communicate his or her wishes.

So, if you’ve been putting off discussing advance directives with your mom or dad, you’re not alone. You may be fine having this discussion among your peers, but discussing the same topic with your older loved ones might cause you to grow faint-hearted.

It’s tough to picture our loved ones unable to express their wishes and make their own decisions. However, as an adult child who may be likely to become a parent’s caregiver one day, discussing end-of-life wishes is one way to provide the same degree of care and consideration that you received through the years.

Have you been putting off this task? If so, consider the following people you’ll help if you discuss advance directives sooner rather than later:

1) Your Loved Ones
Your mom or dad may avoid talking about an advance directive because it’s a frightening topic. They may feel like they are giving up control, but in reality, an advance directive is designed to do the opposite.  It ensures that people live out their lives in a way that reflects their values. Hospice social workers encounter many patients who became both physically and mentally incapacitated. Sadly, if a living will or designated healthcare proxy is not created, decisions regarding what treatments or measures to apply to keep them alive are left to their doctors. An advance directive can ensure this does not happen to your parents and provides them with some degree of control throughout their final days.

2) Yourself
Even though you and your mom or dad may be close, you surely don’t want to guess what choices they would or would not want in a crisis situation. Your care and respect for your loved ones would encourage you to consider those scenarios now, while they are healthy. That way, no assumptions would need to be made during a life-threatening crisis when time is short.

3) The Rest of Your Family
As those of you with siblings may know, stressful events can bring out some interesting family dynamics. Even uncles and aunts, and nieces and nephews can surprise you in both good and bad ways. So now is the time to consider how your close family members might react in difficult situations. Will your brother be angry if your dad develops Alzheimer’s and assigns you to make his financial decisions? Will Mom’s deeply religious brother be upset if she decides to sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order? Sharing advance directives with family members before a crisis strikes might help to keep the peace. Hash out difficult issues with your loved ones ahead of time, record their decisions and preferences in writing, and distribute the documents to concerned family members before possibility becomes reality.

Convinced? Remember: You don’t have to take on this difficult task alone. Click here to access EveryStep’s free Advance Directive packet. Laws and regulations vary in different states so if you are not an Iowa resident, contact a local Elder Law Attorney to review documents appropriate for your location.

Need help for yourself or someone in your care? For more information, call us at (855) 867-4692 or click here for more about hospice EveryStep Hospice or home care options EveryStep Home Care. EveryStep’s hospice and home care programs provide care and support to patients, family members and their caregivers through chronic or serious illness, recovery or rehabilitation. Our experienced and compassionate staff can assist family caregivers in understanding the importance of nutrition, exercise, social ties, mental and spiritual health, and how all these things can contribute to wellbeing for individuals of all ages.