April 16 is designated as National Healthcare Decisions Day, and we would like to recognize this day by encouraging you to consider your future healthcare decisions. National Healthcare Decisions Day exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.
What if a sudden, serious illness or accident leaves you unable to breathe on your own, would you want a tube to be placed in your throat to push air into and out of your lungs? How would your general health condition affect this decision?
If you’re diagnosed with a life shortening incurable illness, do you want the focus of your care to be on keeping you comfortable and pain free? Or do you want a combination of life-extending care and comfort care? An advance directive can specify your choices and designate a decision-maker when you are unable to communicate your own wishes.
Advance directive describes two types of legal documents that enable you to document your end-of-life wishes in the event that you are unable to communicate. A living will and healthcare power of attorney are state-specific documents.
A living will allows you to document your wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of life. Before your living will can guide medical decision-making a physician must certify:
- You are unable to make medical decisions
- You are in the medical condition specified in the state’s living will law (such as “terminal illness” or “permanent unconsciousness”).
Healthcare Power of Attorney:
A healthcare power of attorney allows you to appoint a person you trust as your healthcare agent who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. Before a healthcare power of attorney goes into effect a person’s physician must conclude that they are unable to make their own medical decisions. In addition:
- If a person regains the ability to make decisions, the agent cannot continue to act on the person’s behalf.
- Many states have additional requirements that apply only to decisions about life-sustaining medical treatments, stressing the importance of completing the advance directive for the state in which you will receive care.
Cedar Valley Hospice has copies of advance directives and is able to assist you when it comes to filling out these forms. We also provide presentations on advance care planning at no cost. If you have questions, would like more information or would like to schedule a presentation, please call 319.272.2002.