National Healthcare Decisions Day

Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014

Did you know 90% of Americans have heard of a living will, and 71% of Americans have thought about their end of life preferences but only 29% actually have a living will? This data is according to studies cited by the National Healthcare Decisions Day organization whose goal is to educate the public and healthcare providers on the importance of advanced care planning.

In recognition of National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16th, take the time to read the below frequently asked questions about advance healthcare directives and complete a form to ensure your medical decisions are carried out.

What is an advance healthcare directive?

Advance health care directives are spoken or written plans and information that you make about your choices for medical care. These plans let your healthcare providers, family members or other important people in your life know the choices you have made. In Pennsylvania, there are three kinds of advance healthcare directives: 1) living will, 2) healthcare power of attorney (POA) and 3) do not resuscitate (DNR) order.

National Healthcare Decision Day Speak Up Video

Why I need an advance healthcare directive?

You have the right to accept or refuse care. Planning and writing your advance directive lets you control your healthcare at a time when you may not be able to make your wishes known.

When does my advance healthcare directive take effect?

When you are not able to make your own healthcare decisions, the person (agent) that you named will make those decisions for you. You may add or name a different person at any time.

What is a living will?

A living will is a written, legal record of the care you choose for yourself if you are unable to make decisions and are at the end of your life. It explains what treatments you want, or treatments you don’t want. This includes surgery, medicine, intravenous (IV) fluids, a feeding tube, kidney dialysis, mechanical ventilation (breathing machine) and heart-lung resuscitation (CPR). Most advance directives also contain a section about organ donation where you can express your wishes as to whether or not you want to donate your organs. You can also register online to become an organ donor.

What is a healthcare power of attorney (POA)?

A healthcare power of attorney (POA) is a legal written record naming a person (agent) to act on your behalf. This person is able to make healthcare choices for you if and when you are unable to make those choices for yourself.  A healthcare POA is often, although not always, very different from a financial POA. A financial POA typically addressed things like bank accounts, transference to real estate, etc, and may not specifically mention healthcare decision-making.

What is do not resuscitate (DNR) order?

A do not resuscitate (DNR) order is a request directive to not provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing

How do I make an advance healthcare directive?

Any time you tell someone your wishes about medical treatment, you are making an advance healthcare directive. To be sure your choices are clearly understood, it is best to have a written record. This record should be signed by you, dated and signed by two witnesses.

Where can I get an advance directive?

Advance Healthcare Directive forms are available on the Doylestown Hospital website or there is a list of online resources available on the National Healthcare Decisions Day website.

Who should have a copy of these forms?

Give a copy to your primary care physician or your healthcare representative. If you know ahead of time that you’ll be in the hospital, bring along a copy. You may also give want to share a copy with your long term care provider, healthcare agent, lawyer and family or friends.

When should I review or update my advance directives?

As your health changes or you have a life-changing events, you may want to reconsider or change your advance health care directive. It is a good idea to review your advance healthcare directive every year.

An advance directive is only used when you cannot make decisions for yourself. When you are unable to say what you want, it serves as a blueprint for health care professionals and your family to make medical decisions in line with your values.

An advance directive not only benefits you, but also your loved ones to reduce pressures of having to make critical medical care decisions for you under stressful or emotional situations. "This is a way of caring for and supporting your family when they may be left to make critical decisions about your medical treatments," said Ira Byock, MD, director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

The Best Care Possible Through the End-Of-Life Event

Ira Byock, MD from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, is one of the foremost palliative-care physicians in the country and will be speaking on Monday, May 19, 2014 at Lenape Middle School Auditorium in Doylestown, PA.

Everybody wants the best care possible for their loved ones and themselves through the very end of life. Shared decision-making can clarify what is best for each person at each point in time. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from this expert, and discover ways to ensure you and your loved ones receive "The Best Care Possible" when you need it most. Learn more for The Best Care Possible Through the End-Of-Life event.

About Doylestown Health

Doylestown Health is a comprehensive system of inpatient, outpatient and community services connected to meet the health and wellness needs of all members of the community. Our independent and nonprofit system is dedicated to healthcare excellence from childbirth to end-of-life care.

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