Are you prepared?
What is an Advance Directive? Why would you need one? Where do you get a form? These are all important questions for anyone, but especially for older adults. You know your rights as a patient and that you can make your own decision about medical treatments, you discuss them with your physician. But what if you were not able to discuss them with your doctor? What if you became incapacitated and were incapable of conversation or comprehension?
That‚Äôs where an Advance Directive can help you. They have many other names and come in various types. Some people refer to them as Living Wills, or Instruction Directive, this type of Advance Directive allows for you to make a statement about your treatment preferences. Another type, Proxy Directive or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, allows you to name a proxy, someone you trust to make decisions for you if you are not able. There is also a Combined Directive, in which you may give instructions as to your care if you are incapacitated but also name a proxy to care out those wishes and make decisions based on your treatment preferences.
An Advance Directive can be as simple or specific as you wish. In New Jersey there is no specific form that must be followed for an Advanced Directive and you do not need a lawyer to prepare one. It is suggested that if you have questions you could consult a lawyer or medical professional. There are many models available for Advance Directives and there will be links at the end of this blog. An Advance Directive can simply be a letter stating your health care wishes or it can be a detailed list of treatments that you would or would not want. It is important to remember that an Advance Directive can be used to request treatment not just withhold or withdraw treatment. It is a legally recognized document that can make your wishes know to your family in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself. It only requires your signature and two adults to witness your signature. You can have it notarized or signed by a legal authority but this is not necessary to make it a legal document.
You should share copies of your Advance Directive with your doctor, with family members and if you name a proxy or healthcare representative, you should share a copy with that person as well. Under New Jersey Law, medical staff must honor any written Advance Directive, they are only in effect when you are not capable of making your own decision. It is recommended that you review your Advance Directive every 5 years, you should initial it and have a witness if you make any changes.
The time to think about an Advance Directive is when you are healthy and able to make clear decisions. This way you can make your own decisions and/or appoint someone you trust to make those decisions.
Brochure from New Jersey Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly for more information call 1-877-582-6995 or 609-943-4023