Wednesday, March 27, 2013

5 Features of Advanced Healthcare Directive You Should Know About

The advanced healthcare directive, as the name suggests, is a set of instructions made out in advance about the kind of treatment you should be given in the future should you be unable to express your wishes at that time.

The following 5 features will help you in better understanding of this directive.

• Instructions: There may come a time where you may be unable to communicate the kind of treatment you want due to age factors or a health condition that may render you unconscious or incapacitated to make sound decisions. A set of instructions made beforehand will come into effect in such situations and guide the healthcare personnel on the kind of treatment to be given or even what must be avoided. These instructions can be generalized or more specific, mentioning certain medications or procedures.

• Agent: You also have the option of appointing an agent who is generally a spouse, anther close member of the family or a close friend who will have the authority to make decisions regarding the treatment on your behalf. You have to communicate your wishes to the appointed person clearly and provide the required authority on paper which will become effective if you are unable to take your own decisions, just as in the case of instructions.

• Content: An ideal directive is the one that combines both the set of instructions as well as the document that appoints an agent to make the directive effective in any kind of situation. The details of the instructions or the extent of power to be given to the agent will of course be your personal decision; however, you must speak with your family, the agent, healthcare staff and any other concerned personnel before finalizing the same. The directive has to be in writing and must bear your signature along with the required witnesses. Once finalized, the directive must be distributed to all the concerned parties, especially your doctor.

• Implementation: An advance healthcare directive can be a very effective document to ensure a certain quality of life even in the future and can prevent distress to you and your family should any such condition arise. But poor awareness has resulted in the limited implementation of this directive and in several cases the content of the directive has made it ineffective or caused conflict with the right treatment. Medical organizations or providers can help to promote the directive by either educating the patient and family or appointing trained volunteers who can guide you in making an effective and valid directive.

• Evolution: The concept of the advance directive has come a long way since the time you could make a living will containing your instructions or creating a healthcare power of attorney for appointing an agent, to the advance healthcare directive combining both. The Five Wishes document is another well known advancement in this regard.

Advance healthcare directives have been adopted throughout the country; however, different states may have their own specific forms and requirements for such documents.

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