As a family caregiver, you have undoubtedly been swimming in copious paperwork over the years: Medicare, Social Security, insurance policies, medical forms, benefit applications, and the list goes on. But there is one document that is, above all, a true gift…
An Advance Directive is a legal document indicating what you want in a medical emergency or if you become unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself. This document is completed when an individual is not in crisis and of their own sound mind to make decisions about their wishes for future care if needed. There are two main parts to an Advance Directive: a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney. Living Will provides specific health care instructions, including whether you want life-prolonging treatments and how you want medications to be used. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care names a health care agent – that is, someone you trust to speak on your behalf about what medical care you want or don’t want.
Why is this a gift? Because it means that loved ones don’t have to guess. It means that family doesn’t have to make these difficult decisions without guidance during a highly emotional time. It means that the person you love who is in a health crisis has already expressed details on what they want to happen, so you can just follow their wishes. It means that you can honor the rights of your loved one when they aren’t able to advocate for themselves.
This is a lesson for all of us. It’s never too early to create your Advance Directive, even a simple version. Talking to family about these things is important, but it isn’t enough – the key is to put it all in writing so that it is documented correctly and accurately and can be easily referenced by family and physicians.
If you have any questions about Advance Directives, please feel free to reach out to me. The gift of wishes is a special one, both to give and to receive. Maryland Advance Directive resources online: CLICK HERE
“I have a healthcare directive not because I have a serious illness, but because I have a family.”
-Dr. Ira Byock
Join us for Caregiver Connect on the 2nd Monday of every month in the Highlands Activity Room from 6:30-8pm. RSVP to Marilyn.
NEW! KP Spouse Support Group on the 3rd Thursday of every month: Are you caring for a spouse at KP? Share your stories, challenges and ideas with peers. Join us for the kickoff on Thursday, March 19 in the Woodlands from 1-2:30pm. RSVP to Marilyn.
Marilyn Rippetoe, LCSW
Director of Family Services