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How do advance directives work?

Consider what might happen if you were suddenly incapacitated by illness or injury. If you were unable to communicate your wishes about medical treatments and care to others, healthcare staff and your family would be responsible for making tough decisions on your behalf. 

Not only does this put an unbelievable amount of stress on your family members, it could also mean that your wishes are not honored. According to Indiana University Health, an advance directive prevents this from happening by spelling out your wishes regarding end-of-life healthcare in great detail. 

What purpose do advance directives serve?

When a person is experiencing a terminal medical issue, they may choose to forgo life-preserving treatments and therapies. However, if a person is unable to communicate this to the doctors providing care, these treatments will be utilized regardless, despite the patient’s desires. 

An advance directive gives you the ability to make decisions regarding end-of-life care before major illness or injury occurs. Medical staff and family can then refer to this legally binding document to determine what kind of treatment to afford. 

Why type of medical decisions do they include?

Resuscitation methods, such as CPR, are used when a person stops breathing. Many advance directives list situations in which the patient would not want CPR administered. They can also contain information about life-prolonging procedures, such as feeding tubes and ventilators. Because medical treatments are often complex, it is recommended you make decisions with the assistance of your family physician. 

What is a healthcare representative?

In addition to an advance directive, you can also appoint a healthcare representative to actually speak on your behalf at the hospital. This person is there to ensure your wishes are carried out based on the details of your advance directive. They must be able to communicate effectively to medical staff as well as family, who may be at odds with your choices. 

Thinking about end-of-life matters is never easy. However, making plans now ensures you are treated according to your wishes, and that your family is not left to make difficult decisions during a challenging time. 

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