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What You Need to Know about Advance Directives

Thursday, Apr 13, 2017
Advanced Directive

What care would you want if you couldn't speak or act for yourself? It is important to have conversations about your healthcare wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers.

Looking Ahead and Doylestown Health want to make it easier for every person to act now to ensure that the healthcare you want near the end-of-life is the healthcare you get.

Here are some STATs & FAQs to get you started:

  • 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27% have done so.1
  • 60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is extremely important, but 56% have not communicated their wishes.2
  • 82% of people say it's important to put their wishes in writing, and yet only 23% have done it.3

What is advance care planning?

This is the process of thinking about what your choices would be for future healthcare should you be unable to speak for yourself. It involves reflecting on your personal beliefs, goals and values, understanding your options, discussing your choices, documenting your decisions and sharing them with your loved ones, healthcare providers and your hospital so they can be followed when the time comes.

Why is advance care planning important?

You have the right to accept or refuse healthcare. Thinking now about what you want later gives you the time—without the pressure—to reflect on what is truly important to you before a crisis erases that luxury. Planning and documenting your choices lets you control your healthcare at a time in the future when others may be making decisions for you.

What is an advance directive?

This legal document, completed and signed by you, states your healthcare treatment and care choices — your "living will"— and usually names the person or people you choose to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you're unable to speak for yourself — your healthcare power of attorney (HPOA).

Your legal HPOA, which can be separate from your living will, assigns only healthcare decisions to your named agent. While it is not the same as your financial power of attorney, you could choose the same capable, trusted individual for both responsibilities.

Although different advance directive forms may contain slightly different questions and formats, in general the document explains what treatments you want and don't want, such as surgery, medicine, intravenous (IV) fluids, a feeding tube, kidney dialysis, mechanical ventilation and CPR. This becomes an important guide for your healthcare proxy and medical team, who are obligated to follow it when you are near the end of your life and unable to speak for yourself.

You can change any part of your advance directive at any time while you are still able to communicate. In fact, you should review it every year or so and update it whenever your health or other circumstances change.

How can I participate in advance care planning (ACP) and make sure my documents reflect my choices?

  • Download and review an advance directive
  • Attend a community ACP presentation or My Wishes Workshop® offered by Looking Ahead for guidance in weighing your options and completing your advance directive
  • Open a discussion of treatment and care options with your physician
  • If you have already completed an advance directive, review it now. Make sure it still reflects your wishes.
  • Discuss you choices with your family, healthcare agents and healthcare providers and provide them and your hospital with copies of your advance directive.

Your family, physicians and hospital can't respect your choices for future medical care…unless they know what they are. Please join us in this effort and take advantage of the many opportunities we're offering in the months ahead to complete your advance care planning.

Attend an Advance Directives Workshop

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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