The Beauty of a Plan
It’s never too late to “make a plan” for the future. It is true that with some resolutions, we start out with big goals and usually end up with little gains. There is one area though, that planning ahead makes a world of difference in our own lives as well as the lives of those we love and care about.
Working in healthcare for over 40 years, I have seen up close and personal the effects of poor healthcare planning and the great benefits of careful attention paid to Advance Directives. A life-imposing visit to the Emergency Room is NOT the time to think of all those things we should have taken care of while we were well. Right now is the time to make decisions to guide our physicians, family members, and loved ones involved in our care. The beauty of Advance Directives is that YOUR wishes are made known prior to the chaos of all emergencies.
Advance Directives exist in two primary forms: 1) A Living Will and 2) A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. The forms are both available on-line and do not require an attorney to complete or a Notary Public to make them official.
A Living Will is a simple document to complete that outlines your healthcare choices at end of life and when you are no longer able to make those wishes known. It requires an open and frank discussion with your loved ones and your physician. It can clarify and express your desires when you cannot make those requests known to others. It does not come into effect until it has been determined that you are no longer capable of decision making for yourself.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you to determine a stand-in decision maker if you are unable to speak yourself. They will have the same power as you would. This is usually a spouse, child, or trusted friend who knows your wishes and will carry them out for you, should it become necessary. Again, an open and frank discussion ahead of time makes a crisis much easier to deal with.
Both forms can be changed or updated upon desire of the person completing the documents at any time. It is important that your healthcare choices are known to your family and your physician to avoid unnecessary care or treatment that you would not choose for yourself.
When my mother died, all her documents were in order and it saved my three brothers and me the heartache, disharmony, and family conflict. I have also seen where this has not been the case and families have been torn apart because of lack of planning. So fire up the internet,make some choices, and let your voice ring out … now, while it is clear and strong.
Related reading: National Healthcare Decisions Day-Make Your Wishes Known
Minda Jacobsen, RN, MSHA, CHPN
Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations