Have the Conversation About Creating an Advance Directive
Only one out of six Americans say they’ve had advance care planning conversations with a doctor or other health care provider.
“The tragic reality is people who do not communicate their values and priorities for end-of-life care often pay dearly for this failure, by enduring futile, agonizing tests and treatments that only prolong the dying process. It is equally important for people to empower a loved one in writing to be their decision-maker if they are unable to speak for themselves
.” — Barbara Coombs Lee, president of the non-profit Compassion & Choices
Advance care planning is important for your peace of mind and for the people you love. You should begin care planning by creating an advance directive. An advance directive is a type of medical document that describes your treatment preferences in end-of-life situations. Every person 18 years and older should have an advance directive.
. They are free and easy to create. Advance directives need to be in writing, but creating one comes at no cost and is generally an easy process. Visit Virginia State Bar, www.vsb.org
. In the search box type “advance directives” for a form and an advance directive tool kit. You can also visit asyouwishvirginia.org
for resources & support. JABA also provides you with an Advance Directive form. Just click on the link on the right-hand column of this web page and print out the form.
2. They help you think about the values and goals you have for your health and health care. Making decisions about end-of-life care isn’t easy. Some people value prolonging of life over all else, where other prioritize relief of pain and suffering or the effects of one’s care on loved ones. Whatever you decide, planning ahead can help you consider these important issues and communicate them with your friends, family and healthcare providers in a time and place where you can think things through clearly.
3. They help you prepare for unexpected medical situations. Many people think that they do not need to plan for their care until they reach the later stages of life. However, end-of-life situations can happen to anyone. Creating an advance directive ensures you are prepared for any medical situation that may come your way.
They comfort your family and loved ones. It’s stressful to make an end-of-life decision for someone you love if you don’t know their wishes. And, it can cause friction within a family if people’s views are not aligned. Completing an advance directive and sharing it with the people you love helps bring your family together and ensures they can make decisions on your behalf. For help in having that conversation, visit The Conversation Project at theconversationproject.org
. Make it a family project and have ask everyone to create their own with you.
5. They allow you to create closer relationships with your doctors and other care providers. By creating an advance directive and sharing it with your doctors, you are telling them that you are informed and involved in decisions about your care. This can reinforce a meaningful relationship between you and your doctors that, in turn, can serve as an important source of emotional support during difficult times. Your doctor and local hospital can help you with commonly used forms.
6. They speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself. Most importantly, advance directives make sure you are treated the way you wish to be treated no matter what the circumstance.