Advance Directives 101: What You Need to Know

As your loved one ages, it is important for the whole family to get on the same page with what your loved one wants. If everyone knows your loved one’s wishes, everyone can best advocate for those desires. Further, if everyone knows your loved one’s wishes, there will be less of a chance of family fighting or other stressful interactions.

Advance directives are one way to not only know your loved one’s wishes, but also to make them legal. Here’s what you need to know about advance directives.

What Are Advance Directives?

Advance directives are legal documents that give instructions about healthcare decisions. These directives can include:

  • Living Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
  • Do Not Resuscitate Orders (sometimes called a DNR)

Living Will

A living will addresses healthcare choices and wishes, and will be used as a guide to know what to do if the person is no longer able to make decisions on their own. A living will can include information about if the person wants CPR to be used if their heart stops, if the person wants intervention if they can no longer swallow or eat, if the person wants palliative care and hospice care, and if the person wants a ventilator in order to live.

Having a conversation about these topics is scary and it can feel awkward. However, your loved one deserves the opportunity to state what they want and to make that a legal request via their living will. Ideally, you will know their wishes before they are unable to make decisions on their own. It is easier to make difficult decisions on behalf of your loved one if you know what their choices are in advance.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A Power of Attorney (POA) for Healthcare is sometimes called a medical POA. There can also be a financial POA named that handles financial decisions on behalf of the person if they are no longer able to do so. Similarly, the healthcare POA is responsible for advocating for the person’s needs and wishes once the senior can no longer do so on their own.

A medical POA becomes the contact person for the senior’s physician and caregiver team. They are able to make decisions for treatment and next steps on behalf of the senior.

Do Not Resuscitate Orders

A DNR order, or Do Not Resuscitate order, is often printed on a bright orange piece of paper. The person does not need to see a lawyer in order to sign their own DNR order. Instead, these orders can be signed with the right witnesses in a hospital, home, or senior living setting.

A DNR order means that if the heart stops or breathing stops, the clinical team will not perform CPR or other lifesaving measures. If your loved one has a DNR order, be sure their clinical team has a copy and keep a copy in their home as well so that first responders also know their wishes.

Completing Advance Directives

If your loved one is ready to begin planning for the future, a stop at the lawyer’s office is the first step. Advance directives are crucial to ensuring family members know what their loved one wants as they age and potentially decline.

Have more questions about future planning? Our team at CaringGivers can offer support for your loved one while they live at home, giving everyone time to determine future plans without making those choices in the midst of crisis.

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