Planning for Life Present and Future

You spend your life planning for things - birthday parties, school schedules, weddings, family reunions and even buying a new house. However, there are a few things you might not be as excited to plan. Planning for the medical care you would want if you’re unable to make your own health care decisions can be difficult. However, planning for the future can make things easier on your family and your physician in the event of a severe injury or a medical condition.

A Pew Research Center survey in 2009 found that only 29 percent of Americans have a living will. A year later, a Harris Interactive Study said that the proportion of Americans with advance directives was 2 to 5 percent. Further studies indicate that some patients aren’t even aware of what an advance directive is or how to complete it.

What Are Advance Directives?

An advance directive is a type of health care planning form that details your choice for medical care and treatment if you are unable to talk or make health care decisions for yourself. There are many different types of advance directive forms. The most common are a designation of a health care surrogate and a living will. These forms help health care professionals and family members make medical decisions in the event that you’re unable to make your own choices. These forms doesn’t cost anything to obtain or complete.

  • Designation of health care surrogate: This form lets you choose someone to make medical decisions based on your wishes if you are unable to make them for yourself. This person can authorize transfers to other facilities, speak with your physician and other medical professionals, review your medical record and accept, refuse or withdraw medical treatment.
  • Living will: This form lets you choose the kind of medical care you do and do not want if you have a condition that will soon result in death, an end-stage condition, or are in a persistent vegetative state. This is a written statement that outlines how you wish to be medically treated under circumstances when you can’t express your wishes.

Ask yourself these very important questions:

  • Who should be making my medical decisions for me if I can’t?
  • What do I value most about medical care?
  • What medical care am I willing to go through for the opportunity to extend my life?
  • At what point may my quality of life become the most important thing to me?

You can also include instructions regarding everything from funeral wishes, casket versus urn, and whether you want to have donations made in your name to a specific organization or cause, rather than flowers. These forms could help you outline your wishes long before you’ll ever need them. Planning for end-of-life is planning for your future now, so your family and loved ones don’t have to.

For more information about understanding advance directives, listen to our podcast interview with Margie Atkinson, Director Pastoral Care, Ethics and Palliative Care at Morton Plant Mease. 

How Can We Help

BayCare can help you get the conversation started with our free guide to advance directives. Download our designation of health care surrogate and living will form, or our free Guide to Advance Directives booklet. Receive a printed version by mail of our free Guide to Advance Directives booklet.