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Advanced Directives Explained

Reviewed by: MySeniorCare Staff
Last Updated: 4/13/2010 3:31:57 PM

Most seniors do not complete advance directives until they come face to face with a health scare including hospitalization or a serious diagnosis.

At least 75 percent of the elderly population is without a completed set of advance directives, according to the Society of General Internal Medicine (2004).

Empower Seniors

By encouraging seniors to fill out advanced health care directives, you can reassure seniors and give them piece of mind. One reason for this, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, is that advance health directives improve an elderly person's sense of dignity and autonomy.

Essential Advance Health Directives

Advance directives is a blanket term referring to different legal forms encompassing the financial, health and quality of life wishes of an individual. Each state has laws governing certain provisions which need to appear in the directives, as well as forms which are specifically recognized by that state's laws.

Keep in mind that medical professionals will still determine if the patient is capable of making their own medical decisions, according to the American Bar Association.

Advance Health Care Directive

The advance health care directive provides health care professionals and family members with details regarding testing, surgery, pain management, resuscitation and end of life decisions, should you be incapacitated, facing a life or death situation, and are not able to make these decisions on your own.

Print out an advance health care directive after locating your state.

A living will is similar to an advance health care directive. How a living will may be used is determined by state laws. In California, for example, an advance health care directive is legally recognized as a type of living will, according to the California Medical Association.

Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy may also be referred to as a "durable medical power of attorney," according to the American Bar Association. A health care proxy designates an individual, typically a spouse or family member to make decisions regarding your care, within individual state laws.

Ask the Tough Questions

If you are unsure if your family members have advanced health care directives, ask them. According to the Journal of Aging and Health, elderly people tend to rely on family members to make decisions for them. As a caregiver, it behooves you to find out what the senior family member would want, given specific circumstances.

Get Started Today

Caregivers and seniors may start the planning for essential advance directive forms by first visiting the family physician. Acquire essential advance directive forms from local senior service organizations, family law attorneys, local hospitals or your state's department of public or community health.

Do the legwork by providing the senior with the appropriate documents, asking questions and helping seniors fill out the forms. They will need to designate a person who will carry out the wishes set forth in the documents, so make sure you cover all the questions thoroughly.

Families & Advance Care Directives

Caregivers should also fill out the same forms for themselves and help family members over 18 do the same. It's not only seniors who need advance directives, all family members should be prepared.

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