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advance directive

3 Reasons You Need an Advance Directive

An advance directive can spare your loved ones the difficult decision of how to handle end-of-life care or other health emergencies.  Imagine being in their shoes if you were to be in an accident that left you clinging to life and unable to make decisions about how much medical intervention you wish to receive. Your wishes are never in doubt when you leave an advance directive as a roadmap.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to be subjected to aggressive medical care if it won’t improve your quality of life, an advance directive is a must. Working with an experienced advance directive attorney can help identify your requests and prepare them in a legally binding document.

If you don’t have an advance directive, you could end up with medical treatment or healthcare interventions you don’t want.

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive makes your wishes clear about the kind of health care you want if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself. Maybe you’ve been in a bad accident and are in a coma. Perhaps you’ve had a stroke and can’t communicate. Whatever the reason, an advance directive guides your healthcare team (and your loved ones) about how much and what kind of medical intervention you want to receive.

As part of drafting your advance directive, you’ll be asked to designate a surrogate decisionmaker. Choose someone you trust implicitly because this person is tasked with ensuring your wishes are followed no matter who it upsets. There are three types of advance directive.

Durable power of attorney

A durable power of attorney carries out your wishes if you’re unable to speak for yourself. They can help with more than healthcare decisions. The person you designate to this role can assist with financial needs while you’re incapacitated. A durable power of attorney only is effective while you’re unable to care for yourself.

Health care proxy

A health care proxy is tasked with making decisions related to your health and well-being if you’re unable to make those decisions on your own. The person’s sole responsibility is to carry out the wishes you’ve outlined in your advance directive.

Living will

Living wills spell out the kind of medical interventions and treatments you want if you can’t deliver instructions verbally. They can be very detailed or offer general instructions. For instance, if you don’t want to be placed on life support, including a generalized statement about that in your living will ensures it doesn’t happen against your wishes.

Anyone could need emergency care at any time. Having an advance directive spells out clearly what kind of medical intervention you want.

Why do you need an advance directive?

According to the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research Center, only 36.7 percent of adults in the U.S. have an advance directive. Beyond providing you with peace of mind, there are some other reasons to create an advance directive. Even if you’re in good health now, that can change at the drop of a dime. Here are three other purposes for drafting your advance directive sooner rather than later.

  1. Advance directives force you to prioritize goals
    No one likes to think about something bad happening to them. What’s even worse is knowing it could happen and you’d be completely unprepared to deal with it. Making decisions about your end-of-life care is scary but necessary. Planning helps relieve your loved ones of the burden, while ensuring your wishes are met.
  2. Advance directives consider the unexpected
    Being young and healthy doesn’t mean you can’t find yourself on death’s door. All it takes is one careless decision by another person to impact your health and well-being. End-of-life situations can happen at any time and to anyone. Creating an advance directive means you’re prepared for the unexpected.
  3. Advance directives provide quicker healthcare resolutions
    You never want your healthcare team to lose precious time wondering if you’d consent to a procedure that could save your life (or prolong it unnecessarily). Advance directives lay out your wishes in a clear fashion and appoint a health care proxy to ensure they’re followed.

What happens if you don’t have an advance directive?

If you don’t have an advance directive, the worst-case scenario is you receive care you wouldn’t have wanted. This can mean being placed on life support when there’s little or no chance of your recovery from an accident or injury.

In the absence of an advance directive, doctors and other healthcare providers must ask your next of kin what they think you’d prefer. Making these kinds of decisions can fly in the face of what you want. It also can create family discord if your immediate family disagrees on how to handle your care. Worst-case scenario, care you need is delayed because of family squabbling over how to handle it.

What are the next steps in drafting an advance directive?

If you’ve decided to move forward with drafting an advance directive, consider working with an attorney experienced in estate matters. While there are free resources online designed to educate you about advance directives and guide you in preparing one, they can’t replace a skilled advance directive lawyer.

Scott Atkinson has more than 30 years of experience in preparing advance directives for clients. Give him a call today at 505-944-1050 or contact him online to schedule your free consultation.

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