Advance Directives: Respecting Your Loved One’s Wishes

living will, advance directive, medical power of attorney, coronavirus

An advance directive helps you make plans for what should happen if you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself. It’s a written statement that you can share with loved ones and doctors. The main advance directives you should have in place are a living will and a healthcare power of attorney (healthcare proxy) naming someone to make decisions for you when you can’t. 

While it may seem like something you’d want to save for later, planning in advance will help loved ones avoid any disagreement or turmoil in the long run. The current pandemic has left everyone with a sense of unknowing, and in some cases fear and dread. These times are hard to navigate for both young and old. It can be especially hard for older adults and caregivers to wrap their heads around what could happen in a severe coronavirus case.

Things are especially unique during this time in that loved ones can’t even enter the hospital room, and doctors and nurses are covered in personal protective equipment (PPE), leaving those hospitalized without a caring touch. Levels of anxiety are up along with levels of physical illness. That’s why it’s even more important to make decisions in advance. If decisions aren’t made, the default in U.S. hospitals is to do everything possible to keep the person alive at any cost. The truth is, in many cases, that is not the best thing for an elderly loved one.

Things to know about advance directives

Your loved one might feel hesitant about filling out an advance directive, but here are some things to know that should help ease their minds.

  • You can make changes to an advance directive at any time.
  • Even when you declare a healthcare proxy or healthcare power of attorney, you still have the power to make any decisions and changes to your wishes up until you are physically unable to do so. 
  • You may add a specific addendum re: COVID if you wish for a different treatment plan should you contract the virus.
  • Tell your children and loved ones who you have named as your healthcare proxy so that there is no confusion or anguish when the time comes.
  • Make sure to share your advance directives with loved ones or let them know where they are located.
  • You don’t need a lawyer to prepare advance directives; you can easily create them using resources online. 

Have a MOST or POLST form on file

These are simple complementary forms that can be completed by a health care proxy. MOST (Medical Orders for Specific Treatment) and POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) forms let physicians know the intensity of treatment one wants. The forms cover whether to use CPR, whether to focus on comfort care only, whether to use a ventilator, and more.  

Resources

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