What is An Advance Directive? Why Every Senior Should Have One

What is An Advance Directive? Why Every Senior Should Have One

As part of the advanced care planning process, seniors often look to legal counsel to form a “living will” or set up a medical power of attorney. Both of these are types of advance directives which offer explicit instruction for navigating medical decisions should the patient be unable to act on their own behalf.

As a proactive document which ensures one’s wishes are met an advanced directive can be formed as soon as someone turns 18. Once drafted, the directive becomes a legal binding document that must be followed by all medical personnel and family members no matter their views.

The Two Types of Advance Directives

Though there are far more than two forms of advance directives, a living will and medical power of attorney are the most common and are often fleshed out at the same time. Let’s take a look at both. 

Living Will

A living will details the specific medical treatments that are acceptable or not should you be unable to provide an answer at the time of medical concern. This document primarily revolves around defining actions around terminal conditions, in which medical professionals deem death is likely no matter intervention. Efforts made would likely offer comfort and extend life, but ultimately fall short of offering recovery. 

Living wills also deal with more than the terminally ill, detailing what medicines and measures are allowed for general care. This can include pain killers, antibiotics, IV’s, blood transfusions, and any number of specific medical care that goes against one’s beliefs.

Medical Power of Attorney

Formally known as a durable power of attorney for health care decisions, this document designates who is able to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you be unable to during a time of need. Power of Attorney can be set up in a few different ways.

Immediate Appointment

Power is given to a designated agent at the time of signature. The agent is able to make decisions no matter the physical or mental state of the signer.

In Time of Need

Only when the signer is unable to make their own decisions does the document give power to the agent to step in and decide on the signer’s behalf.

Since medical power of attorney covers all medical situations, including ones that might not have been previously thought of, it is much more powerful and a great supplement to a living will. It also gives children of seniors the ability to take over day to day healthcare needs, relieving parents of an added stressor.

What Happens if You Haven’t Setup Advance Directives?

Should a medical event happen, in the absence of an advance directive the state will assign an agent on your behalf. Family is the first choice with a spouse or parent looked at first, then children or siblings should they be able and needed.

If someone is without family or those alive are unable to provide adequate decision making, a doctor or hospital medical officer will take over. In this case they will act off of medical knowledge and standard treatment not assuming a patient’s wishes.

How Do I Make An Advance Directive?

Though advance directive forms can be found through organizations such as state government sites, hospice providers, and other healthcare organizations, it is strongly recommended to consult with a healthcare provider, and or attorney. They will help guide you through the process and ensure your wishes are met.

Start Planning for Long Term Care & Aging In Place

Blakeford’s LiveWell program builds beyond an advance directive helping define day to day care now, and in the future so that seniors can age in place in their Nashville homes.

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