Whether you are 18 or 88, an advanced directive is a wise idea to help protect your wishes and to avoid forcing your family or others to make difficult or even misguided decisions on your behalf. An advanced directive, also known as a living will, is a legal document that instructs your decisions about serious medical care and treatment when or if you are not able to do so.
About Advanced Directives
An advanced directive tells others whether you desire the use of breathing machines and/or dialysis to help you stay alive as the situation dictates, as well as whether you wish artificial nutrition via tube feeding or through an IV. You may also determine how you wish to be comforted, such as receiving medication for pain or nausea, ice chips for dry mouth and/or spiritual and emotional counseling.
In addition, an advance directive tells others whether you want resuscitation if your heartbeat or breathing stops. You can also determine whether you want to participate in organ or tissue donation after your death.
Another element to an advance directive is to establish a durable power of attorney for health care, which names the person you want making decisions on your behalf if you cannot, due to a physical or mental condition. Establishing the person to direct your elder care is often a relief for both the senior and their family.
About Five Wishes
Making the decisions required by an advance directive can be difficult. However, there is help available. The Aging with Dignity organization has a mission to protect and affirm individual human dignity as they age and help ensure sound elder care for those who are reaching the end of life.
Aging with Dignity introduced a document called “Five Wishes” in 1997. Five Wishes helps users fill out and compete an advanced directive, meets the legal requirements for an advanced directive in at least 42 states, and is useful in all 50.
Five Wishes is now available online and allows users to determine not only their desired medical treatment but also information about their care and comfort, as well as information they wish their loved ones to know. The standard Five Wishes form is available online.
The Aging with Dignity organization also offers a “Next Steps” guide to help individuals speak with their family members about their advanced care directive and their wishes for medical care and treatment when they are no longer able to articulate them.