Advance care planning is a topic that should concern everyone, but it is especially important for elderly people. In the event you suffer from an injury or illness that leaves you incapable of making health care decisions on your own, an advance health care directive specifies your wishes.
What types of decisions do advance care directives involve?
If you are in need of emergency medical treatment, there are a few different methods doctors can use. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) restores function to a failing heart, while a ventilator ensures airflow is restored to the lungs when a person is unable to breathe on his or her own. If a patient is unable to eat, a feeding tube may be used to provide nutrition. Fluids can also be provided intravenously if a person is unable to drink liquids.
How can you make end of life care decisions known to others?
Advance care directives typically involve a few different elements. A living will stipulates what type of care you prefer when experiencing a terminal illness or an unconscious state. A durable power of attorney names a person, called a health care proxy, to make decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to. Some people use both measures, while others prefer having one or the other in place. Do not resuscitate orders, do not intubate orders, and physician/medical orders for life-sustaining treatment forms are also common for advance care planning.
Who should I choose as my health care proxy?
A health care proxy can be a friend or family member, or it can be a clergy member, attorney, or some other person. The person you choose should be on the same page with you when it comes to your end of life views. For example, if you prefer minimal life-saving treatments, the person should not be morally opposed to this. No matter who you choose, you can provide the person as much or as little authority over your health care as you see fit. However, make sure your wishes are explicitly stated so there is no room for misinterpretation.