Advance directives are an important tool that allows you to communicate your wishes for care should you become unable to physically or mentally make those decisions. The advance directive can take the form of a living will, which is essentially a document that gives your health care agent/power of attorney and doctor instructions for end-of-life care. The living will states whether or not you want life-prolonging treatments like being kept on a respirator or having a feeding tube at a time when such efforts will not effect a cure or give additional quality of life.
A second type of directive is a healthcare power of attorney. In this document, you appoint a trusted relative or friend to direct your health care at a time when you are unable to communicate your own health care decisions. The document may also include specific care instructions that you define.
It is important not only to have advance directives in place, but also to discuss your wishes with your family members. (North Carolina has a new simplified Advance Directive form you may wish to download.) Very few people are comfortable with an end-of-life planning discussion, but knowing your wishes up front will make it easier for your loved ones and help alleviate any guilt they might feel should they ever be in the position of having to make decisions about your long-term or end-of-life care. You may also wish to discuss your preferences regarding organ donation in the event of an accident and your preference for funeral arrangements upon your death.
Medical Order for Scope of Treatment (“MOST” FORM)
A number of states have enacted statutes allowing for a more detailed advanced directive allowing patients and their physicians to enter into an advanced “Medicaid Order” outlining and defining the scope of treatment that patient wishes – or does not wish – to receive relating to a variety of possible health conditions which may arise. You should discuss with your doctor whether they are familiar with the MOST form and ask to review a copy to determine if you desire to define that scope in advance of experiencing an actual health crisis that would call for such treatments to be administered.
A Note About Hospice
Brinkley Walser Stoner is a strong supporter of Hospice. This not-for-profit organization has local chapters throughout the country. Their trained staff and volunteers offer assistance and resources to those dealing with end of life care of a loved one. We recommend that you contact them to learn more about their services.