Advance Health Care Directive
Myth #1: If there isn't a serious illness, I don't need an Advance Health Care Directive
While it is true that an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) is often associated with serious illnesses or end-of-life care, it is important to recognize that its purpose extends beyond these specific circumstances. An AHCD, also known as a living will, enables you to express your preferences for medical treatment and healthcare decisions where you may not be able to make them yourself. Unforeseen events, accidents, or sudden illnesses can occur, and having an AHCD in place allows you to retain control over your healthcare decisions. It can guide medical professionals and your loved ones in understanding your wishes, ensuring that your values and beliefs are respected in the event of incapacitation.
Furthermore, a healthcare directive can address a wide range of medical decisions, not just those related to serious illnesses. For example, it can include instructions on resuscitation, the use of life-sustaining treatments, pain management, and organ donation. By documenting your preferences in advance, you alleviate any potential burden on your loved ones, as they will have clear guidance in making decisions regarding your healthcare.
Even if you are currently in good health, negative event can occure and having an AHCD in place can provide peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.
Myth #2: I am married so I don't need an Advance Health Care Directive because my spouse will speak for me
While being married does grant your spouse certain decision-making powers, it is still highly recommended to have an Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) in place. An AHCD goes beyond simply designating someone to make decisions on your behalf; it allows you to clearly express your own wishes and preferences for medical treatment.
If you are unable to communicate your wishes, having an AHCD ensures that your desires are known and followed, even if they differ from what your spouse or other family members may assume. It provides you with the opportunity to outline specific choices regarding life-sustaining treatments, resuscitation, pain management, and other important medical decisions.
Additionally, relying solely on your spouse to make decisions for you can place a significant burden on them during what may already be a stressful and emotional time. By having an AHCD, you can alleviate some of this burden by providing clear guidance and instructions, allowing your spouse to act in accordance with your wishes without feeling the weight of making difficult decisions on their own.
It is always prudent to have a healthcare directive in place, regardless of your marital status.
Myth #3: If I fill out an Advance Health Care Directive it is set in stone and it can't be changed
While it is important to take your Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) seriously, it's worth noting that it is not "written in stone" and can certainly be changed if necessary. In fact, it is encouraged to review and update your AHCD periodically to ensure that it accurately reflects your current wishes and preferences. Life circumstances, medical advancements, or changes in your personal beliefs may all have an impact on your healthcare decisions. To make changes to your AHCD, you can typically do so by creating a new document that revokes the previous directive.
You can consult with an Estate Planning Attorney, such as Joel at Connor Law, who specializes in estate planning or healthcare law, to assist you in making any necessary modifications according to the laws and regulations specific to your jurisdiction.
By regularly reviewing your directive, you can ensure that it remains up to date and in alignment with your current mindset and values. It's essential to communicate any changes made to your AHCD with your loved ones, especially the person you have designated as your health care agent, to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding in the future. By keeping your directive up to date, you can have peace of mind that your wishes will be respected and followed, even if circumstances or your preferences change over time. In California, if you are hospitalized, the facility may have their own document that acts as an AHCD, but other facilities may not recognize it or follow the decisions that you have made.
Myth #4: Once I have completed an Advance Health Care Directive, my spouse or agent will not have to make any tough decisions
That's fantastic news that you have taken the step to sign an Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD). By doing so, you have proactively made your healthcare preferences known and have taken an important step in ensuring that your wishes are respected. It can provide peace of mind to both you and your loved ones, knowing that your wishes will be followed.
However, it's important to remember that an AHCD is not a one-time event. Life circumstances, medical advancements, or changes in your personal beliefs may all impact your healthcare decisions. As such, it is worth periodically reviewing and updating your directive to ensure it accurately reflects your current wishes and circumstances.
Additionally, it is crucial that you communicate your AHCD with your designated healthcare agent, as well as your family and close friends. Having open and ongoing conversations about your health care preferences can help clarify any misunderstandings and provide guidance in case a difficult decision needs to be made. An AHCD does not address every medical condition possible but gives general parameters about your preferences and desires for treatment, but cannot predict everything.
Without any AHCD, your spouse, family and healthcare providers will be required to use the most conservative and invasive treatment even if that is not what you may have wanted. You should consider discussing your AHCD with your primary doctor, other healthcare providers, your clergy, and your close friends as well, so they can ensure that your wishes are followed should the need arise.
Overall, signing an AHCD is an important step in taking control of your healthcare decisions. However, remember to review, update, and communicate your preferences regularly to ensure that your directive remains current and fully aligned with your wishes.