What are Advance Directives?
An advance directive is a document that informs your health care provider and family members of the kind of medical treatments you would want (or not want). These documents would only take effect in the case that you become unable to speak for yourself and cannot express your wishes.
What are the different types of advance directives?
- Living Will: This is the document that clearly describes your desires and/or refusals for medical treatment and will be used by healthcare professionals and loved ones in the event that you cannot express your thoughts. For example, you may suggest that you would not want to be kept alive with any extra support should you be unconscious and have no hope for recovery, or you may state that you desire all treatment possible. The instructions on this document can be changed at any time.
- Power of Attorney for health care: This is a person you name as a trusted individual to make your health care decisions if you become unable to do so. Of course, this should be someone who knows you well. Just like the living will, this only comes into effect if you cannot make medical decisions for yourself.
Why is it important to discuss these?
Although having these conversations might be difficult, they are necessary. In an effort to best honor your thoughts, beliefs, and values, doctors and loved ones must be informed of your wishes. Without an advance directive, you may not receive treatment you do want, and you may receive treatment you do not want. These also help reduce confusion and disagreements about medical care amongst family members. Keep in mind that, although many people think these only apply to the elderly, unexpected end-of-life events can happen to anyone at any age. It is important to be prepared for these situations.
The social workers at both Hegg Health Center and Whispering Heights are well trained in guiding families through these conversations and assisting in making tough decisions surrounding end-of-life treatment. If you feel that talking with one of them would be beneficial to you, don’t hesitate to call Melinda Faber, hospital/clinic social worker, at 712-476-8068 or Haeley Faber, nursing home social worker, at 712-476-8214.
Guest Author: Reagan Putnam, Social Work Intern at Hegg Health Center