Advance Directives: A Gift to Your Family
Monday, April 15, 2013
What if you had a serious accident or illness and couldn’t speak for yourself? If you were in a coma, what kind of medical care would you want? Whom would you want to make health care decisions for you?
These are important questions to consider, and by taking a few simple steps you can ensure your wishes are followed.
Archbold Memorial Hospital patient representative Anna Brinson has worked in healthcare for many years. She knows the importance of completing an advanced directive. In fact, she encourages her patients daily to plan crisis medical care in
advance, just in case they aren’t able to make their own healthcare decisions someday.
But it wasn’t until she had personal experiences with planning end-of-life healthcare that she truly understood what a gift advance directives really are to your family.
“An advance directive is a legal document you complete that provides your loved ones and your doctor with your healthcare wishes in time of crisis, should you no longer be able to speak for yourself,” said Brinson. “It allows you to document your healthcare preferences on critical and end of life decisions, and names the person who will speak on your behalf, if you are not able.”
In addition, an advance directive documents your wishes for life-sustaining procedures, in the event your death is imminent.
Brinson’s father, Wayne R. Faircloth, battled multiple myeloma cancer for over 10 years. He made the decision himself to discontinue cancer treatments in January of 2008, and he lost his battle in March of that year.
“Looking back on that time in my life, I remember how I did not want my daddy to stop treatment,” said Brinson. “He’d always been there for me—as a child, in some ways, you always think your parents will be around. At the time, I didn’t realize my reasons for not wanting my daddy to stop treatments were totally selfish—I was not ready to let him go, and I had a seven month old who I wanted to know his grandfather."
But now as Brinson looks back on that time in her life, she’s glad her father was able to make his own decisions.
“My daddy was tired and could not do the things he loved to do anymore,” said Brinson. “He didn’t have the quality of life that he had enjoyed for so many years. By him sharing his wishes with us in advance, he gave my mom and his children the ultimate gift, which was his love, but he also left us his wishes so we wouldn’t have to make tough decisions.”
In 2006, Brinson lost her brother-in-law unexpectedly to a massive heart attack.
“My brother-in-law was 41 years old when he passed away, and he did not have an advanced directive in place,” said Brinson.
And neither did his wife—Anna’s sister—who was left solely responsible for raising their three children.
“For my sister, all it took was seeing how quickly and unexpectedly things can happen,” said Brinson. “She knew right then she needed to have a plan in place, so her children wouldn’t have to make tough decisions regarding her own healthcare someday.”
Though it’s not an easy topic to address, Brinson recommends that anyone over the age 18 have the conversation about end-of life wishes with their loved ones.
“What many people don’t realize is, if there is not an advance directive in place, the law dictates who can make our healthcare decisions, in the event we are incompetent to do so ourselves,” said Brinson. “And if you have someone in your life you have discussed your wishes with, I strongly encourage you to make it legal and complete an advance directive.” Brinson said there are three types of advance directives: a living will, medical power of attorney and a do not resuscitate order (DNR).
A living will outlines the type of medical care you want to receive.
“It gives specific instructions about treatment, such as use of blood transfusions, breathing machines, and tube feedings,” said Brinson.
The medical power of attorney is a document that lets you appoint someone to make medical care decisions for you in case you can’t. Brinson said, “You can appoint a family member, friend, or other trusted person.”
And a DNR order is a document that states you don’t want to be kept alive if you have a heart attack or your breathing stops.
“A DNR is an actual physician’s order that is written when you come into the hospital,” said Brinson. “Just like the other documents, it becomes part of your medical record on file at the hospital.”
Brinson said you can get advance directive forms from your doctor, hospital, or state agency on aging.
“You don’t need a lawyer to fill them out,” she said. “And you can update them if you change your mind about the care you’d like to receive. Just be sure to give a copy to your doctor and a family member.”
To learn more about advance directives or to request a Georgia medical power of attorney/living will directive form, call an Archbold Patient Representative at 228-2782 or 228.8086.