What is the purpose for each of the following advance directives for health care

As one of our patients, you have the right to obtain information regarding Advance Directives. Our interdisciplinary team is available to assist you in this endeavor.

As you access our outpatient, ambulatory surgery and inpatient admission sites, HSS staff will provide information to all adults who receive medical care detailing their rights to make decisions about their medical treatment.

What are Advance Directives?

Advance Directives are documents you create to describe the extent of medical treatment you want to receive – or do not want to receive – should you become unconscious or too ill to communicate. They are called "advance directives," because you give instructions in advance of the time when you might need someone to follow your wishes regarding your medical care if/when you are unable to express them.

Although the topic may be difficult to discuss, it is important for you to record your wishes and preferences. We recommend that you discuss advance directives with your spouse, other family members, physicians, nurses, and clerics while you are feeling well and thinking clearly. Advance Directives include:

A living will expresses, in advance, a person’s instructions or preferences about future medical treatments, particularly end-of-life care, in the event the person loses capacity to make health care decisions.

  • A health care power of attorney is particularly important for all adults, even younger adults, who want someone other than next of kin to control decision making (for example, a partner, friend, or anyone else legally unrelated).

    A simple, straightforward document called an advance directive allows you to express your wishes if you become incapacitated and unable to communicate.

    Advance directives are recognized in every state, and millions of Americans have them as part of their medical records. They’re embraced by healthcare professionals, attorneys, hospice professionals and retiree organizations. 

    The form allows you to appoint someone else, such as a family member or close friend, to speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself, or to speak for you at a time or in a circumstance you designate.

    It starts with a conversation. It may not be fun, but it is vitally important—for you and your family. If you have not made these decisions ahead of time, those decisions may be left to a distraught loved one to make for you.

    What an advance directive does

    Trying to make important decisions for someone else during a time of crisis is distressing. Do you know what Mom wanted? Did Dad say if he wanted to be kept on life support? Did he say which interventions he wants, and which ones he might not want?

    This is why an advance directive is a gift to your loved ones if you become incapacitated.

    An advance directive:

    • Gives your loved ones peace of mind
    • Minimizes stress
    • Reduces potential conflicts among family members

    How an advance directive helps you

    Today, there are so many options for people with life-threatening illness, ranging from high-tech medical treatments to palliative care (also known as comfort care).

    Through an advance directive, you are able to tell doctors what you want — or don’t want — while you are able to do so. Having an advance directive usually means that you will avoid:

    • Unnecessary pain
    • Unhelpful procedures
    • Unwanted hospitalization

    How to fill out an advance directive

    When it comes to filling out your advance directive, you can be as general or explicit as you want.

    With an advance directive, you can:

    • Appoint a healthcare agent to make decisions for you. This is usually a person who knows your values and is important to you.
    • Specify where you want to stay during your end-of-life care, such as hospice or at home.
    •  Ask for spiritual care
    • Allow any visitors, or limit them

    All an advance directive needs to be official is the signatures of two people who are not named in the document. You do not need an attorney or a notary. It should be given to your physician for inclusion in your medical record.

    Making your end-of-life choices in an advance health care directive can improve your care in the future and ease the burden on your family. Here’s what you need to know.

    What is the purpose for each of the following advance directives for health care

    What is an advance health care directive (AHCD)?

    An advance health care directive or AHCD (otherwise known as a living will, personal directive, or medical directive) is a document that instructs others about your medical care should you be unable to make decisions on your own. It only becomes effective under the circumstances delineated in the document, and allows you to do either or both of the following:

    Appoint a health care agent. The advance directive allows you to appoint a health care agent (also known as “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care,” “Health Care Proxy,” or “attorney-in-fact”), who will have the legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you are no longer able to speak for yourself. This is typically a spouse, but can be another family member, close friend, or anyone else you feel will ensure that your wishes and expectations are met. The individual named will have authority to make decisions regarding artificial nutrition and hydration and any other measures that prolong life—or not.

    Prepare instructions for health care. The advance directive allows you to make specific written instructions for your future health care in the event of any situation in which you can no longer speak for yourself. It outlines your wishes about life-sustaining medical treatment if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious, for example.

    Although death is an inevitable part of life, many of us are reluctant to face the fact that we’re not going to live forever and plan for our end-of-life care. The advance health care directive provides a clear statement of your wishes about prolonging your life or withholding or withdrawing treatment. You can also choose to request relief from pain even if doing so hastens death. A standard advance directive form provides room to state additional wishes and directions, and allows you to leave instructions about organ donations and disposition of remains (burial or cremation). Discussing your wishes with loved ones and preparing an AHCD offers the best assurance that decisions regarding your future medical care will reflect your own values and desires.

    Myths about advance health care directivesMyth: You must have an advance health care directive to stop treatment near the end of life.

    Fact: Treatment can be stopped without an advance directive if everyone involved agrees. However, without some kind of advance directive, decisions may be more difficult and disputes more likely.

    Myth: An advance directive means “Do not treat.”

    Fact: An advance directive can express both the treatment that you do want–and that which you don't want. Even if you do NOT want treatment to cure you, you should always be kept reasonably pain free and comfortable.

    Myth: If I name a health care proxy, I give up the right to make my own decisions.

    Fact: Naming a health care proxy or agent does not take away any of your authority. You always have the right, while you are still competent, to override the decision of your proxy or revoke the directive.

    Myth: I should wait until I am sure about what I want before signing an advance directive.

    Fact: Most of us have some ambivalence about what we would want because treatment near the end of life can be complicated. Advance health care directives can always be changed if/when your wishes or circumstances change.

    Myth: Advance directives are only for old people.

    Fact: Younger adults actually have more at stake, because, if stricken by serious disease or accident, medical technology may keep them alive but comatose or insentient for decades. Every person aged 18 or over should prepare a directive.

    Why is an advance directive important?

    While most people would prefer to die in their own homes, the norm is still for terminally-ill patients to die in the hospital, often receiving ineffective treatments that they may not really want. Friends and family members often become embroiled in bitter arguments about the best way to care for the patient and consequently miss sharing the final stage of life with their loved one. And the opinions and wishes of the dying person are lost in all the chaos.

    [Read: Late Stage and End-of-Life Care]

    It’s almost impossible to know what a dying person’s wishes truly are unless they've been discussed ahead of time. Planning ahead with an advance directive can give your principal caregiver, family members, and other loved ones peace of mind when it comes to making decisions about your future health care. It lets everyone know what is important to you, and what is not. Talking about death with those close to you is not about being ghoulish or giving up on life, but a way to ensure greater quality of life, even when faced with a life-limiting illness or tragic accident. When your loved ones are clear about your preferences for treatment, they’re free to devote their energy to care and compassion.

    End-of-life issues in an advance directive

    Specific issues related to the end of your life can include:

    1. Which person will make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make your own?
    2. What medical treatments and care are acceptable to you? Are there some that you fear or don't wish to have?
    3. Do you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing and/or your heart stops?
    4. Do you want to be hospitalized or stay at home, or somewhere else, if you are seriously or terminally ill?
    5. In countries such as the United States, how will your care be paid for? Will your insurance cover it? Some treatments and caregiving or nursing homes can be costly and leave your loved ones with a financial burden at a time when they're already grieving your loss of health.
    6. What actually happens when you die? Will your loved ones be prepared for the decisions they may have to make on your behalf?

    Creating an advance health care directive

    Advance health care directives and living wills are not complicated, but the content can be complex and should be thought through very carefully. It can be short, simple statements about what you want done or not done if you can't speak for yourself.

    It’s important to discuss your wishes with family members as well as legal, health, or other appropriate professionals when preparing such a document. It is particularly important to talk about your wishes with everyone who might be involved in your care. In times of stress, others may confuse their own wishes with yours.

    In the U.S., most state governments have designed forms for people to complete on their own by filling in the blanks. While these are not usually mandatory, most states do require witnessing or other specific signing formalities. Anything you write by yourself or with a computer software package should follow your state laws. So, it’s essential for you to know what the specific laws are in your state or country. 

    While you are not required to seek legal advice to prepare an advance health care directive in the U.S., it may be a good idea to do so to ensure that the actual instructions for your wishes are stated clearly and accurately.

    Speak with your physician

    It is important that you discuss your health care desires with your physician. They are likely to be the one caring for you when your instructions become relevant and are much more likely to honor requests that have been communicated directly. Your physician can:

    • Help you phrase your requests in a way that makes sense to medical professionals and can answer any questions you may have.
    • Point out any inconsistent features of your requests. Sometimes refusing one kind of treatment contradicts your desire to receive another kind of treatment. Your physician can smooth out some of these “rough edges” and help make a consistent and coherent directive.
    • Tell you if there are aspects of your requests that they cannot honor because of personal, moral, or professional constraints.

    Speak with your family

    Despite your best efforts to plan for all eventualities in a health care declaration, actual events may not “fit” your directives. It is therefore important that you discuss your desires with family and friends.

    • Your family can often help clarify your directives on the basis of recollections of specific discussions under specific circumstances.
    • If you have discussed your wishes with a number of people, it is more likely that those wishes will be honored.
    • Discussions with family members can help avoid unpleasant scenes and confrontations when you are incapacitated. While family members may have little legal authority to make decisions for incapacitated patients, they often feel they have moral authority. They may be confused by statements not previously shared with them, and may even try to contest your wishes legally if they feel your choices are not in your “best interest.”

    Talking to your loved ones about end-of-life choices

    To ensure that your future care wishes are understood and respected by all those who are important to you, it’s imperative that you sit down and talk to your family and loved ones about your end-of-life choices.

    For many of us, the prospect of such a conversation can seem like a daunting task. You or your loved ones may be uncomfortable talking about serious illness or death, or it may seem “too soon” to have a conversation about end-of-life preparations. However, it’s better to have the conversation when you and your loved ones are in a calm and relaxed state, rather than in the midst of a medical emergency when everyone’s stressed and it’s difficult to think clearly.

    While you may think that your loved ones already know what you want, the truth is there is often a startling difference between what people say they want and what their family members think they want. The only way to be certain that your loved ones understand your wishes is to sit down and have the conversation.

    Choose a time and place where you and your loved ones feel comfortable and at ease, such as after a family dinner, on a walk, or sitting outside in the sun.

    Not everything has to be discussed at once. The conversation can be spread out over different times.

    Be patient with your loved ones. Fear and denial are common. Some people need longer to become comfortable talking about dying, others may have different feelings about what end-of-life plans should involve.

    Don’t feel like you can never change your mind. Your opinions and wishes can change over time and Advance Health Care Directives can be revised.

    How to get started

    You can get started by sending your loved ones a copy of this article with a note saying, “I’d like to talk about this.”

    Other ways you could break the ice:

    • Remember how someone in the family died—was it a “good” death or a “hard” death? How do you want yours to be different?  “I was thinking about what happened to (Uncle Joe), and it made me realize…”
    • “Even though I’m okay right now, I’m worried that (I’ll get sick), and I want to be prepared.”
    • “I need to think about the future. Will you help me?”
    • “I just answered some questions about how I want the end of my life to be. I want you to see my answers. And I’m wondering what your answers would be.”

    What is the purpose for each of the following advance directives for health care

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    What to do once your advance health care directive is complete

    Once you have completed your advance directive, it may be necessary to have it notarized depending on who witnesses your signature—follow the instructions on the document in accordance with your state laws. Providing many trusted individuals with copies of your advance directive will insure that your health care wishes are met in the event that you cannot express your wishes for yourself.

    Keep the original copy of the advance directive yourself in a place that can easily be found, and give copies to:

    • Your chosen health care proxy (with directions on where to find the original).
    • Family members or other loved ones.
    • Your primary care physician, hospital, or health care institution. Ask that a copy is placed in your medical record and make sure your doctor will support your wishes.
    • Anyone named in the directive.

    A copy can also be sent to your attorney or kept in a safety deposit box or anywhere else you keep copies of a will or other important papers. Be sure that you have discussed the directive with the person you designate as your health care agent and that they understand your wishes and the responsibilities involved and will agree to honor those wishes.

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    What is the purpose for each of the following advance directives for health care

    What happens if I change my mind?

    It’s best to think of Advance Health Care Directives as a work in progress. Circumstances can change, as can your values and opinions about how you would best like your future health care needs to be met. Directives can be revoked or replaced at any time as long as you are capable of making your own decisions.

    It is recommended that you review your documents every few years or after important life changes and revise your directives to ensure that they continue to accurately reflect your situation and wishes.

    When to reassess your advance directive

    Re-examine your health care wishes every few years or whenever any of the “Five D’s” occur:

    1. Decade – when you start each new decade of your life.
    2. Death – whenever you experience the death of a loved one.
    3. Divorce – when you experience a divorce or other major family change.
    4. Diagnosis – when you are diagnosed with a serious health condition.
    5. Decline – when you experience a significant decline or deterioration of an existing health condition, especially when it diminishes your ability to live independently.

    Choices about end of life are important for all adults—not just for the older population. Not only does an advance health care directive let your voice be heard about what you want, but it also relieves others of making these decisions for you.

    Changing your advance directive

    If your current advance health care directive no longer reflects your wishes for end-of-life care, refer to your state’s (or country's) laws for the correct way to cancel or amend the directive. Once you have revised the directive, it is important to discuss the changes with your physician and family members, and notify everyone who has copies of your old directive.

    Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Monika White, Ph.D., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.

    Reviewed by: Lisa C. Alexander, attorney, certified by the State Bar of California as a legal specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law. She is a partner of the law firm of Jakle & Alexander, LLP.

    Myths and Facts About Health Care Advance Directives (PDF) – Common myths about advance directives and the facts that dispel them. (American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging)

    Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning – Self-help worksheets, suggestions, and resources. (American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging)

    Making End-of-Life Decisions: What Are Your Important Papers – The documents you should have when faced with end-of life decision-making. (Family Caregiver Alliance)

    What is the purpose of an advance medical directive?

    An Advance Medical Directive (AMD) is a legal document that you sign in advance to inform the doctor treating you (in the event you become terminally ill and unconscious) that you do not want any extraordinary life-sustaining treatment to be used to prolong your life.

    What are the most common 3 types of advance directives?

    Types of Advance Directives.
    The living will. ... .
    Durable power of attorney for health care/Medical power of attorney. ... .
    POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) ... .
    Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders. ... .
    Organ and tissue donation..

    What is the purpose of an advance directive quizlet?

    Advance directives are legal documents that allow people to state what medical treatments they want or do not want in the event that they are unable to make decisions or communicate because of severe illness or injury.

    What are the 2 main purposes served by the advance directives form in the state of Maryland?

    An advance directive allows you to decide who you want to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. You can also use it to say what kinds of treatments you do or do not want, especially the treatments often used in a medical emergency or near the end of a person's life.