What you need to know about Advance Health Care Directives
An Advance Health Care Directive is a document you sign giving instructions to someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you if you’re unable to do so. These types of documents are sometimes called a “Living Will” or “Health Care Power of Attorney.”
You might ask why you need this document. After all, you’ve told your doctor and your family what you want – that should be good enough, right?
What if you became injured and needed an immediate decision made about your care and your doctor wasn’t available? What happens if you’re critically injured and your spouse wants you on life support but your children disagree? Who decides?
You may feel that your family knows what your feelings are about your medical care – but have you told them what you want as it relates to life-sustaining treatment if you’re unconscious or terminally ill? Have you discussed if you want tube feeding; artificial nutrition and hydration; the degree you want to be medicated; or what treatment choices you want if you’re suffering from severe dementia or the late stages of Alzheimer’s? You may not have discussed these options with your family – you may not even have thought about each of them yourself.
An Advance Health Care Directive can help in each of those situations. It even allows you to name a guardian, if needed. You can also make decisions about donating your organs and about your funeral and burial.
I know these aren’t pleasant things to think about – but isn’t it better if you make these decisions now while you’re healthy, rather than putting the burden on family members to make them when you’re sick or injured? Having this document should give both you and your family peace of mind.
While we’re happy to assist you in the preparation of an Advance Health Care Directive, you should know that in Maine you can often get a free Advance Health Care Directive form from a nearby hospital or your doctors’ office. The State of Maine’s website also offers this link to a form for you to use: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads/aps-guardianship/documents/advdirectivesform.pdf.
So don’t put it off. By having an Advance Health Care Directive, you decide what you want your medical treatment to be in the future.