Advance Directives Help Patients Spell Out Healthcare Decisions

Parkland Healthcare

DALLAS – With a third holiday season underway amidst a global pandemic, some individuals are setting aside time during family gatherings to have difficult healthcare discussions and presenting their loved ones with signed copies of their Directive to Physicians, Family or Surrogates (Living Will) and Medical Power of Attorney. Also known as advance directives, the documents can remove the burden from family members who may be called upon to make critical decisions should a loved one fall ill.

“During the first, second and even third surge of COVID-19, it brought to light the importance of outlining what my wishes are,” said Claudia Hayes, 74, of Midlothian. “And it goes beyond just the coronavirus. What if I’m in a car crash? What if I am diagnosed with some other life-threatening disease? What better time than now to make sure difficult healthcare decisions don’t fall on my family?”
Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care or indicate whom you want to make these decisions if you are unable. By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also can reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf, according to Krister White, M. Div., ACPE Certified Educator and Director of Spiritual Care at Parkland Health. Advance directives aren’t just for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so all adults over the age of 18 need to prepare the documents. In addition, copies should be given to your family and your healthcare provider.“ Advance directives help the medical team understand the patient’s wishes and they also provide support to family members as they work with the medical team. Families are often burdened with decisions about invasive, but potentially life-saving treatments and they have to ask themselves what their loved one would want,” Edwards said. “I’ve seen how difficult these questions can be for families in the trauma center, especially when the patient is older or had other health problems before the injury. Advance directives can remove some of this uncertainty and at least partly relieve the stress of decision-making for family members during a very upsetting time.”

“These discussions are not easy to have, but end-of-life decisions are not something we wanted our sons to have to make, so we’re making them ourselves,” Hayes said. “Even though I didn’t have this discussion with my mother, I was lucky. One day, years before she passed away, I opened the mail and found signed copies of her advance directives. When it came time to make those decisions, I didn’t have to, because she already had.”

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