But we all face the prospect of being unconscious or unable to make a decision about life-saving measures. Which would you choose: life support; a feeding tube? Not a pretty picture, but a possibility – however remote – for everyone.
We all have the right to make whatever decision is best for us, and making that decision early lifts the burden from loved ones and puts us in charge of our own health and destiny. An Advance Directive is a document that expresses your desires in writing should you become unable to do so verbally. It tells doctors, hospitals and family members what you want. If you’re 18 or older, you can establish an Advance Directive.
Your directive can be conveyed in a Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney and must be witnessed by two people or notarized. You can write it yourself, but it’s best to give a copy to a family member or close friend to ensure that a physician gets access to it and follows your instructions.
Another approach is to fill out a Power of Attorney for Health Care, a form in which you appoint another party to make decisions for you – choices such as whether or not to undergo surgery, receive medications or be placed on life support. The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can be applied only when two doctors agree that you’re no longer capable physically or mentally of making or expressing choices on your own.
You have the right to cancel, change or replace any of these documents at any time.
The only exception is in a Power of Attorney for Health Care (POLST) which requires you to have the capacity to make decisions on your own. If you do not, then your appointed surrogate can make the change for you. Choose someone you trust for any of these options.
You can change who you want to be in control or change your wishes. The exception is in a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), which requires you to be capable of making decisions on your own. If you cannot, your appointed surrogate can make the change for you. Choose someone you trust for any of these options.
Make several copies of your directives, keeping one in a dry, safe place, another with your family member and, if you have one, your lawyer. Don’t make it hard to get to by locking it up in a safe or safety deposit box. You can also ask your primary physician to keep a copy in your medical-records file. Directive kits are available online at the California Medical Association website, www.cmanet.org, or by phone at 800-882-1262.
I realized this is not one of my more upbeat articles, but I felt it was important information. The next article will offer a few more chuckles, I promise!
Marla Luckhardt is a Discovery Bay resident and member of the East Contra Costa Senior Coalition. She works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. To contact her, e-mail email@example.com.