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End-of-Life Medical Treatment – Preplanning is Key! (Part 1)

Sometimes, no matter what kind of treatment your loved one receives, the important thing is whether or not their wishes were fulfilled at the end of their life. While this is a difficult thing to even imagine, you will need to make sure that the final time they have on this earth is comfortable and that they receive the care that they would like to have if they are unable to make medical decisions for themselves.

How do you decide what kind of care you will receive when you cannot make this decision? The answer is that there are several documents that can be filled out before the inevitable, and the sooner you discuss these with your loved one, the better.

What is An Advance Directive?

The first document you may want to discuss and fill out is an advance directive. An advance directive tells your loved one’s doctor what kind of care they want to have if and when they are unable to make medical decisions. If at anytime they are admitted to the hospital, the staff will most surely discuss this with you and your family members.

What is in an advance directive? An advance directive is a document that describes the kind of treatment that your loved one would want depending on how sick they become. It will describe the kind of care they want if they are unlikely to recover from an illness or are permanently unconscious.

An advance directive also tells a doctor what kind of treatment a person does not want no matter how ill they are. It can take many forms because laws about advance directives vary from state to state. Do your research or contact a legal person to familiarize yourself with the laws in the state that you live in. It is imperative that this document is filled out before anything happens. Remember the Boy Scout motto, “Always be prepared”? That is what you need to follow in this situation.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is another type of advance directive. It is a written, legal document that describes the kind of medical treatments or life-sustaining treatments you or your loved one would want, if they were seriously or terminally ill. However, there is one difference between an advance directive and a living will – a living will does not designate a person to make decisions for you. Again, if you have further questions, contact a legal expert.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is another type of advance directive. It states who you have chosen to make health care decisions and becomes active only if you are unable to make medical decisions. This document is more specific than a living will and may be a good choice if you do not have another person to make health decisions for you or your aging parents, but, make sure to ask your doctor, lawyer or state representatives about the law in your state.

No matter which document you decide fits your situation, it is vital that you pre-plan how you or your loved one will be treated when they cannot make these decisions for themselves. This will ensure that their end-of-life wishes will be followed.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on: What is a “Do Not Resuscitate Order,” should you have an advance directive; and how to write an advance directive.

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